Monday, 25 July 2011

Levi Mandel

Levi Mandel
New York City
tumblr website

What's in photography for you?

The ability to preserve ephemeral moments, allowing me to both revisit them in the future and share them with others.

Do you like to analyze imagery and visual art, or are you more interested in creating it?

As an artist, the obvious answer is that I'm more interested in creating work than analyzing it. That said, it's an important part of my practice to invest time in other people's works, other environments, other means of inspiration...

What are you studying in college/university? And what would have been your plan b if it wasn’t for that?

I study at Cooper Union, a somewhat conceptual school that requires no declared major. Rather than entering a program in say, photography, the school encourages students to explore all practices and mediums, allowing one to execute a piece or body of work in ways most appropriate to the concept. This opportunity has been crucial to my practice, as I have expanded my work from strictly photography to video and sculptural installations as well. I'm not sure what would have happened if I were not accepted into Cooper. To be honest, it wasn't an option I considered. I discovered Cooper Union after moving to New York, told myself I needed to be studying there, and applied.

You also have video work on your website. Do you like to think of it as a side-business to or rather a part of your “artistic work”?

Everything I make is a part of my "artistic work".

For both film and photography: do you think it's important to know basic theories and to be confident in various techniques to create art or can one just go out and "shoot away"?

My first actual photography class was last year. Everything I have made before that was self-taught, or better yet experimentation. Although it is important for one to know how to handle their camera, understanding photography down to a science is completely unnecessary. The beauty of art is you can make whatever you want; however you want to.

Risking that you might not like the drawing of such an analogy, I have to say that watching the Recital Video Zines I was reminded of the videos Amelie Poulain sends her elderly neighbor.  Have you watched the movie? Would you say there are similarities in the videos or the idea(s) behind them? 

I have seen Amelie, and although I have never considered my Recital videos and the videos within the movie related, I guess I can see a resemblance.

The video "Charles", appears to be a very personal one about your grandfather. Where do you draw the line between personal and public photography/video making?

There is no line nor should there be one.

And would you say, as I have been often told in journalism classes for instance, that a certain amount of showing one's personal life through one's work is even necessary to keep it interesting and to endow it all with your personal signature?

Again, nothing is necessary to keep art "interesting". There are no rules, this is what makes art special.

On your tumblr you keep a photo diary with one image per day. Do you actually just shoot one photo or do you often have to decide which one to upload?

The tumblr page is only curated down to a photo a day. Most often I shoot much, much more. Other times I won't make a photo for days. The tumblr page is nothing more than a photograph a day.

What are the plans for summer?

Right now I'm working on an ongoing series of 4x5 portraits, a book I'm self-publishing and a couple exciting photozines. Other than that, traveling, riding my bicycle, spending time with my cat, exploring new neighborhoods, making new friends...

Ephemeral moments standing still. Take a look at his work!

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