INTERVIEW WITH THE ISRAELI PHOTOGRAPHER NATALIE SCHOR by Eva Defeses

Natalie Schor

Natalie Schor

E.D. You studied Art History at the University of Tel Aviv. Why did you choose Photography and when did you discover the magic of the photographic art?

N.S. I was already a student when my boyfriend, Sharon, bought me a digital camera for our fifth anniversary. I started to take my camera almost everywhere I went, catching things that seemed to me interesting enough, without directing or planning ahead. Soon, I fell in love with this occupation and began taking basic photography classes, honestly I have never imagined this would turn out to be my dream…

E.D. Your photographies are glimpses of reality. What do you take in consideration when you shoot a picture?

N.S. The technical aspect is secondary to me. Firstly, I concentrate on the topic, the original situation. I love a theme that conceals a story, while it aims at something I can relate to. Clearly I make sure there is  proper lighting, and I choose to place the object in the most interesting angle possible. The tendency is of course interesting colors that attract the eye.

E.D. You grew up in a family that values art and culture, surrounded by beautiful art objects. Do you think that this has forged in a way your path in life?

N.S. No doubt about it. I grew up in a family that loves and respects literature, music, and fine arts. My father is an art collector and my mother has a gifted talent when it comes to designing and drawing. Art books on the shelf and paintings on the walls drove me to love and curiosity. I tried my hand in several areas (guitar, poetry, and drawing) and among all these, photography suddenly became the most dominant and appealing to me.

Natalie Schor: Photography "The Old City"

Natalie Schor: Photography "The Old City"

E.D. Do you prefer working with people you know or just with complete strangers in the street?

N.S. As I mentioned, I do prefer the reality that surprises me (which means, to be somehow involved with people you do not know… snap shots etc.)

Of course I’d love to photograph people who are close to me, whom I can share my vision with. But, in general I am a very easy person to get along with and completely open to new ideas and new people.

Natalie Schor: "Orient - Occident"

Natalie Schor: "Orient - Occident"

E.D. Your photographies always have titles. Do you think the titles help the viewer understand your own feelings towards the photography?

N.S. Yes. Although I agree some photos don’t need titles. If you look at a photo called “Untitled”, you can have a personal interpretation, or… the photo simply speaks for itself. Nevertheless, just like in a painting, the artist feels the need to make a statement, to pass on a feeling, an opinion, or an idea. My perception is: a title can help you “see” better and it can equally destroy…However, I still prefer a title.

Natalie Schor: "Life as a Metaphor"

Natalie Schor: "Life as a Metaphor"

E.D. Let’s take:”Life as a Metaphor” for instance. The title gives us a clue towards the meaning of the photo. Can you offer more insight on this specific title / picture?

N.S. It’s a daily scene in a public place. The characters’ position can perhaps indicate their importance, or status in life. I saw humor but also sadness. The attitude of the characters, lost in a surreal setting… metal sky, earth made of stones, and the people trapped in between. Lighting also has an important role, and it creates a separation between the characters. Many titles ran across my mind, but  I finally chose this one, which directs you to a deeper observation, and can be understood in several ways.

E.D. Your photographies are surrounded by a melancholic air, they seem to bring together 2 separate worlds: one of innocence and childhood and the other one of bitterness of a somewhat regretful adulthood. As a young, emerging artist do you find yourself in the middle of these 2 worlds?

Natalie Schor: "Cosanzeana"

Natalie Schor: "Cosanzeana"

N.S. On the one hand I still feel sometimes as a child even though I am almost 27. I feel some of my photos come from a very naive place. On the other hand, I am very connected to the seriousness of older people, because I find it very real. There is a whole life behind them. So much experiences, pain, joy, loss. Something you can see in every wrinkle, every look, and it touches my heart in a way I can’t describe. These two extremes are supposedly not related, but they are…

E. D. “Sleeping birds” is an obvious allusion to Mihai Eminescu’s poem. Do you find inspiration in his poetry?

Natalie Schor: Photography "Sleeping Birds"

Natalie Schor: Photography "Sleeping Birds"

N.S. When I was a child, my grandmothers used to put me in bed and sing this song to me. They knew many Mihai Eminescu’s poems by heart. This is why the title came to me quite naturally. If I look at a photo I have just taken and it may suggest a name related to a poem, well, it turns out to be a very satisfying moment for me. Robert Frank (Such a wonderful photographer) said: “When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice…” if I could reach that, nothing can be more fulfilling.

E.D. “Dialogue of the deaf” is another well-chosen title, full of subtle irony. Thinking about this picture, do you believe your artwork should express something, have an objective or do you just value art for art’s sake, only for aesthetic principles?

Natalie Schor: Photography "Dialogue of the Deaf"

Natalie Schor: Photography "Dialogue of the Deaf"

N.S. This photo reflects a situation that exists in Israel. I won’t go into politics, but there is a feeling of irony and disappointment implied. I chose that name because I couldn’t think of anything else to symbolize the situation. Two completely different worlds, yet they suddenly appear before you for one moment, something you don’t see every day. My intention is to give a photo a few layers, I wouldn’t want it to be just a “nice picture” to look at. Even when I photograph still life, I try to give a sense of depth, and I wish I had always succeeded in it…

E.D. Some of your photographies seem to disclose a pictorial approach (Sleeping birds, Tribute to Magritte). Do you take interest in other art forms, like painting for instance?

Natalie Schor: Photography "Tribute to Magritte"

Natalie Schor: Photography "Tribute to Magritte"

N.S. The painting domain is no stranger to me. I do try to render my photos a rich pictorial language. In the university, I learned about different streams in art, to analyze works of art, the laws of perspective, light and shadow and composition. Somehow, I may instinctively translate this knowledge into my photos.

Natalie Schor: Photography (Eternal Eve Exhibition)

Natalie Schor: Photography (Eternal Eve Exhibition)

E.D. What are your favourite artists (not only photographers)?

N.S. So many! But here are some of the most prominent of them who receive my highest appreciation:

In painting: Renne Magritte, Joan Miro (I simply adore Surrealism) Reuven Rubin (his paintings are literally pure serenity), Baruch Elron (who was a friend of the family), and Corneliu Baba (I find his portraits excellent!).

Natalie Schor: Photography "No Longer a Saint" (Eternal Eve Exhibition)

Natalie Schor: Photography "No Longer a Saint" (Eternal Eve Exhibition)

In  photography, it is extremely difficult for me to say, since I love so many. I noticed I am mostly attracted by (how not surprising) daily street scenes, and photos in black and white. Some of my favorites are Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon, Helen Levitt, Chema Madoz and Dorothea Lange. I also love photo-journalism very much!

E.D. Thank you.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/natalieschor/

INTERVIEW WITH RAZVAN MAZILU by Eva Defeses

“ I strongly believe in the versatility of the artist, it is a “must” in contemporary art “

Razvan Mazilu, foto by Egyed Ufo Zoltan

Razvan Mazilu, foto by Egyed Ufo Zoltan

Eva Defeses: Although many critics have particularly underlined the perfect union between dance and theatre in the show Dorian Gray, if we take as a starting point the words of the director Dra- gos Galgotiu, who mentioned in an interview the connection between the world created by the fusion of these two art forms with the “visions of Caspar David Friedrich, the painter of philosophers”, we cannot help but noticing a way of construction similar to the act of painting. It is more than a simple logical deduction generated by the title of Oscar Wilde’s novel, your dancing moves on stage appear, when taken one by one, drawing studies, put to- gether by rhythm. Did painting play a part when you created the choreography for the show based upon the novel ”The Picture of Dorian Gray”, at the Odeon Theatre in Bucharest?

Razvan Mazilu: It is a very interesting question. I would like to say that painting is another passion of mine; maybe if I had not embraced the dancing, I would have painted. In a show like Dorian Gray, the pictorial side plays an important part, because it materializes on stage the epoch evoked by Oscar Wilde’s novel, as defined by the obsession for beauty, by the superiority of art over life itself. From this point of view, it was of utmost importance that all the elements of this show – from scenography and costumes to the harmony and gracefulness of the moves – should have a common element: an exacerbated aestheticism – taken to the extreme, I would say.

Eva Defeses: Shows in night clubs (Sell me!), sacred music (Block Bach), Argentine Tango (Un Tango Más), Shakespeare (a one-man dance show, impersonating four major Shakespearean characters in a one-hour performance), etc. are only a few of your projects which at first glance seem contradictory, comprising a great vari- ety of themes and styles. Yet your dancing puts them all together gracefully. What is the style that mostly attracts you?

Razvan Mazilu: At 14 years’ old, I discovered the contemporary dance. I didn’t know anything about it, but I had the revelation of the fact that I would perform contemporary dance and not classical ballet. I have chosen contemporary dance not because I couldn’t face up the demands of the classical ballet as many dancers do today. To me, dancing, as I understand it, is really an existential need, it is the way I express myself best. I like to experiment many genres, from contemporary to cabaret, to theatre-dance. I love the musicals, and I want to direct such shows. So, I would rather define my style as eclectic.

Eva Defeses: What does the theatre bring into this? Is there some- thing that cannot be expressed by dance and the theatre supplies it?

Razvan Mazilu: The very way that I dance is marked by theatricality; I tend to run away from the abstract. Moreover, I strongly believe in the versatility of the artist, it is a “must” in contemporary art. I became a director – choreographer at a very early age … at
20. Maybe it happened this way out of lack of self-conscience, or out of the strong need to demonstrate that I had something to say. Surely, at first, people look at you like you were a curiosity of nature, a freak; there is the prejudice that dancing is something frivolous, so how could I, a mere dancer, put together shows of theatre – dance? I held one man shows, but I also collaborated with important directors, whenever I received attractive proposals. I adore alternating between being a dancer and a creator of shows, and it seems to be very provocative to me.

Eva Defeses: Is there a book that has left a mark on you and which you would like to put on stage?

Razvan Mazilu: I would like to put together a show based on Death in Venice for instance, as it is a novel on the condition of the artist, about the quest for an ideal, at all costs…

Eva Defeses: You have been dancing since 3 years’ old. Who is the person who mostly stood by you on your journey on this “path” (as I know you don’t like the word “career”)?

Razvan Mazilu: It gives me a great deal of pleasure to underline whenever someone asks me this question, the important support I have received from my family, who knew how to cultivate, in an era that seemed completely fade, lacking perspectives of any kind, feelings such as beauty and sensibility. My parents and my sister understood my calling and helped me a lot. It is so important to be understood, to have someone there for you.

Eva Defeses: What is your relation with the actors you work with? Do you influence each other? For instance, in 1995, when you worked with Maia Morgenstern in “The Lady of the Camelias” you have managed to turn this working experience into a beautiful, lasting friendship…(This was the first dance-theatre show, ever produced in Romania)

Razvan Mazilu: My stage partners, actors or dancers, are of extreme importance to the show. I need to work with artists who complement me, whom I can communicate perfectly with, on stage, above any words. This happened with Maia, and I really managed to work greatly with her. Moreover, my encounter with her granted me cour- age. I was a student, at the beginning of the journey; she was already a famous actress. The fact that she put so much trust in me, that she took a great risk by joining me in “different” kind of shows, which had never been made before, meant so much to me. I would like to thank her again for that.

Eva Defeses: You have stated that you cannot dissociate Mazilu – the artist from Mazilu – the man. What has drawn you to Oscar Wilde’s character, so that we may know something more about the man, without forgetting the artist?

Razvan Mazilu: I grew up in a block of flats, in a neighbourhood of Bucharest, during communism. I had a happy childhood thanks to my family, but we all know what sad times those were. Don’t you think that dandyism, as represented by Dorian Gray, can turn into a landmark for a teenager yearning to live in another world, among beautiful things and experiencing special moments? I read The Portrait of Dorian Gray and it impressed me, than Craii de Curtea-Veche by Mateiu Caragiale. All these readings helped me escape from the daily reality, encouraged me to dream beautiful dreams. And I was hoping, in secret, to embody the character of Dorian Gray, on stage, a dream which actually fulfilled itself, almost 4 years ago.

Eva Defeses: Do you find yourself seduced more often by characters similar to yourself, or, on the contrary, is it more fascinating to in- terpret a character that you have nothing in common with?

Razvan Mazilu: I am crazy about constructing characters; it is as simple as that. The more difficult they are, the more provocative it is. Generally speaking, each character gives me the opportunity of discovering and re-discovering myself, of finding unexploited resources. To embody a character, to bring his destiny onto stage, to live through that character experiences that I don’t usually have in my daily life – this is what fascinates me.

Eva Defeses: What are your thoughts when you stand in front of the applauding audience for minutes and the public won’t let you go?

Razvan Mazilu: It is a very strange feeling, a feeling of grace, I’d say; I can’t say that I think at something in particular. I just enjoy the feeling that the audience and I communicate with each other, that we share a connection.

Eva Defeses: What question would you mostly like to be asked and nobody has asked it yet in an interview?

Razvan Mazilu: Difficult question. Maybe it’s precisely this question… But I am still looking forward to be surprised, with each interview. For instance, nobody has ever asked me: “Have you ever danced in a dream?” The answer would be: “Yes. Many times. Sometimes, I have the feeling I have never woken up.”

Eva Defeses: Dear Mr. Mazilu, it has been a pleasure and an hon- our to talk to you. Thank you for your time.

NIRAM ART wishes to thank Mr. Razvan Mazilu and Mrs. Toni Cojanu for their time and support and for providing the photographies that beautifully illustrate these pages.