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Tal Shpantver (photo from Facebook)
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With an eye to the spirit and a camera in hand, photographer Tal Shpantver has taken the energy of freedom, and focused it effortlessly to capture brief glimpses of those moments in reflection.

A pretty lofty claim, you might say, but in the potency of the image the truth is laid bare. Less work and more a compulsion, her city diaries are populated with mysterious characters that just beg for affinity. Her pleasantly haunting portraits have appeared in Rolling Stone, art-mag Živel and Harper's Bazaar, amongst many others.

She has been based in New York since 2000, after spending several years studying & shooting in Tel-Aviv, Prague and Europe after graduating from The Minneapolis College of Art and Design, with a B.F.A. degree in Photography/Media Art (Honors).

With a grant from the Soros Center, she published her 'Limbus project; Prague diary' and within these pages the art curator Radek Vana wrote, perfectly so, that:

"The photographs are very intimate, yet there is some alienated, even existential, twist to them. The numerous reflections in mirrors and the lack of action make the subject seem very alone. The rich colors and blurred shapes of the images recall both fashion and documentary photography, but there is some quality the images have that prevents them from being easily classified.

The distinction between the staged situation and the documentary moment is intentionally kept ambiguous. Tal's images are not like souvenirs or snapshots that are reminders of the past. Instead, she tries to get under the surface of her subjects and through her photographs to let a bit of the past seep out into the present." 

Wanting to peer behind this veil of mystery, we caught up with her recently and put some questions to her. Tal was, just like most artists on this planet would be, very late. The whole time we were talking, I was surprised to find her constantly surrounded by friends. 

And everywhere we went, Tal was leading, even in the middle of our "small international kindergarten," as she called it. After a couple of hours I had got the impression that it was sort of difficult and tiring for her to talk about her work and life, even her age is a mystery.

She feels definitely more comfortable by sharing her views through photos. And what these photos say I just had to discover, so I asked...

THINK: You studied art formally at college, but what was it that drew you to photography?

TAL: Basically because I feel most comfortable with the subject. I was supposed to do other things besides that, like film, and video, but I can most naturally express myself with photography.

THINK: How do you decide the subjects for your pictures?

TAL: I take pictures of my friends, people I have met and gotten to know somehow. I feel like I need to know the people I photograph in order to sort of capture their energy. I also work on a documentary project for a magazine in Israel, but documentary work is not really that challenging to me, it is not so interesting...

THINK: What is essence that makes a photographer a great photographer?

TAL: I think you just have to live it, and then the photograph becomes part of you. And that's my whole thing; every photo is a part of my life. Therefor I try to get as close as possible to my own truth, whatever that might be...

I try to get a balance although, that line between how much is staged and how much is natural, it's never clear. I also prepare the environment, but not necessarily, because it is there already in some way.

THINK: It is hard for some artists to sell their artwork because they have very intimate relation to it...

TAL: Well, it is a lot different with my photographs. There are some I would only show to close friends, but usually I want to share them. I am curious what people think about my work.

I like the interaction. That's why I was very happy to have had an exhibition in the Radost FX gallery in Prague. As a club, it is a living space, so people who see it are not just gallery people - there the interaction is visible.

But then, showing is just one aspect. I have been doing this for many years and I love the whole process of creating a photo. 


- To see more of Tal Shpantver's haunting images, check out her web-site www.talfoto.com and to have your portrait taken by this innately talented photographer, well, you're in luck; so does commisions, but only if you ask nicely of course! Tal also shot the cover for Think Prague #34.

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