"I like to capture anything that the planet has to offer for my artwork, and I always like to squeeze in an adventure."
Canadian artist, Alice Zilberberg creates fascinating photographs by mixing traditional photography with computer illustration for photo manipulation. The outcome resembles more a painting than an actual photograph. Standing at the border between reality and fantasy, her work explores complex themes such female power, the environment, identity and existence. In one of her latest series, Meditations (2019-2020), Zilberberg observes the lives of animals in their environment by creating specific scenes which carry an almost therapeutic value. The collection of photographs taken from different sides of the world, express a lot of calm and tranquility, a sense of simplicity that stands in opposition of people's daily, busy lives. Just like meditation, Zilberberg's artworks invite the viewer to find happiness in the present moment, instead of creating expectations of the future or overthinking about the past. A moment for ourselves to stop and reflect.
Read below the interview with the amazing artist, also winner of numerous prestigious competitions and her vision behind her work and her latest creations:
We would like to know a bit more Alice Zilberberg. Where did you grow up, what was your childhood like? Were you already interested in photography and visual art at a young age?
I grew up in Israel. I had a great childhood. I spent a lot of time in nature in the relatively rural places we’ve lived. We moved to Canada as a family when I was 11.
I started drawing and painting at a young age, and I started taking art classes then. I also started playing around digitally with compositions before photography was introduced to me. When I picked up a camera, I saw that I can create something that is both real and unreal at the same time, and I liked it.
Tell us more about the series Meditations. How did it all start? What was the main inspiration? Must have been quite a journey overall.
I’ve been craving getting wildlife into my work for some time. The theme is an expression of how I’ve always felt about nature – that it inspires calmness and well-being. I’ve always felt that there is a benefit to taking care of, or more so now, saving the natural environment, bringing more attention to wildlife and nature conservation with this project as well. I started photographing wildlife and inserting them into scenes I photogaphed elsewhere – therefore, the final product is not a specific place but more of a conceptualization of the theme.
Would you consider yourself an animal lover? Was this one of the main reasons that pushed you forward into constructing this series of photographs? What keeps you going, apart from the discipline and talent and of course, interest in photography. What drives you to do what you do?
The feeling that I have to act on my ideas. I have to create them because otherwise they will not be created by someone else. And yes, I have always been drawn to animals. I am very concerned about the planet’s rapidly decreasing bio-diversity. This is why it was important for me to create this project.
Could you describe your style in three words? And please motivate why you choose them.
Surreal: because I will always put a swist on the subject
Desaturated: because I will always desaturate
Nature: because I will always use the natural environment in my work
What distinguishes your work from other photographers? What makes it distinctive? We know that you often like to travel across the globe to record different backgrounds and elements for your creations.
It is important to me that the works are seen as art pieces, rather than photographs. I don’t see the final product through a view-finder. I start with a blank canvas and I build the image I have in my head on it.
Which artists inspired you the most? Any type of music that inspires you?
One of the greatest, Salvador Dali, has always been one of my favorites. When it comes to music, I listen to a lot of techno.
We are curious if you as a photographer also have particular habits or rituals. What are your secrets to a successful creative process?
I do have a routine – which includes waking up early, meditating, and exercising. That is always how I start my day. Beyond that, it’s about doing and prioritising my work, first and foremost. Then, the inspiration comes as well.
People often say that a mixture of talent, luck and perseverance leads to long-lasting success. Which factors do you believe have had a big impact and contribution in your case?
Perseverance I’d say is a big one for me. I’ve been creating art for a long time, and I have no plans to stop.
Would you say that, as a visual artist, it is necessary to have a unique style or a particular trademark?
I think a style might come naturally to artists who continuously do the work that they want to do. It comes with time, and with that time the work will become more trade-marked.
You live now in Toronto, do you consider this a photogenic city? Which other places are a source of inspiration for you? Being born in Estonia and raised in Israel, I guess your background must have been quite diverse and multicultural, perhaps also an influence to your art?
Although I reside in Toronto, I rarely shoot in the city. I will typically think of the work I want to create, and if need be, I travel to get the necessary photographs. My background is definitely an influence. I like to capture anything that the planet has to offer for my artwork, and I always like to squeeze in an adventure.
The kind of pictures you take come with a lot of skills. Have you learnt all these techniques by yourself? Are there still things you would like to learn?
I always considered myself self-tought and learned many things formally on the way. If I have an idea for something new, I am always happy to learn a new technique to make it happen. I think skills come from a lot of repetition. My vision has changed so much since I started working in this style over ten years ago.
Do your pictures always convey a particular message? Or is your work open for interpretation?
I can speak about what the work does for me, and means to me, but I will never tell other people how to feel about it. It is up to everyone's perception.
In which ways do you think your latest work differs from what you created earlier on? I am thinking about the transitions between your earliest works, surrealistic and quirky, like The Death of “Happily Ever After” or Goddess Almighty or the latest Meditations?
A lot of time has passed since I made those works, and I think my vision and my style have changed because I have changed. Moreover, If I used to draw inspiration from the things I’ve read many years ago, I am now more inclined to be inspired by my personal experiences instead.
Do you have a favourite series or a favourite artwork that carries a particular meaning to you? What can we expect from you in the near future?
All my pieces are special to me, as they remind me of times or things in my life. I am usually most exciting about what I’m working on presently – which is developing the series Meditations.
I never really know what’s going to come next, I live my life, and I wait for the inspiration to strike, and then it comes to me eventually :)