The Modesty of A Frameby Yuval Saar | 09.10.15
Devoted followers of interior design photography in modern Israeli design and lifestyle magazines are familiar with the works of Gideon Levin, or “181 Degrees”, the pseudonym he goes by. Levin, graduate of the Photography Department of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, discovered his passion for photography back in the days of his military service – a theme which accompanied Levin into the art world in which he is an active creator, alongside his career in photography.
“I harbor a great love for numbers, I think that there’s something very mysterious in this language of figures,” he explains the source for his pseudonym. “180 degrees is the optimal angle for the human eye to perceive a certain space. The added degree references my personal jargon, the simplicity, clean lines and symmetry that characterize my photography, whether it’s of architecture or of art.”
What’s the difference between taking pictures of art, architecture and interior design?
To me the discipline is always the same, which means that the photography I deal in, both of art and of architecture, is conducted at a very slow pace- I can take a long time to arrange, think and compose and only then I take the photo. This type of photography is very different from fashion photography or photojournalism. I think that this is why I chose to photograph architecture – because of the discipline and the pace, that is very similar to my style in art. The only difference between the fields is that in art, I choose what my photographic statement is and what kind of emotion I want to evoke in the viewer and in architecture I must be more technical and just showcase the architect’s work.
Do you think that your discipline in photography connects to your other military-themed projects and your personal military background?
No, not really. It can be projected onto my military service, but if I truly think about it, my discipline dates back to how I was raised and relates to my love for photography and the profession itself. Being sharp and precise about the smallest details without compromise, and even if something doesn’t come out the way you wanted it to, you continue trying until you get it. That’s all there is to it.
When he works on interior design projects, Levin always begins with a deep introductory conversation with the architect/designer to find the necessary chemistry for a collaborative work. As part of that process, he tries to get an understanding of the architect’s\designer’s background and aspirations, and even goes as far as asking them who they would like to resemble professionally.
“I try to understand what colors and shapes they like: whether they’re into symmetry or not, do they like clean lines and lots of white or a variety of colors. All of these questions are really important, because they help me understand how to make the most of a project and whether or not I could really collaborate with someone.”
What are the clichés that you would avoid at any cost? Because it seems like every modern interior design photoshoot ends up having blurred people straddling an Eames chair.
Clichés are certainly problematic, and I do try to avoid them, but sometimes you don’t notice things like that and realize that something you worked on is banal only when you go back to the studio to work on the photos. Having said that, I do know what the end result would look like; that’s why I often find myself insisting not to shoot something at a certain angle or to get rid of a certain object in order to avoid turning a frame into a cliché.
One of the biggest clichés in photography is to fill the entire frame with objects, just to stuff up empty space. To me that reflects that someone lacks the confidence in what they’ve created. An architect with a high self-esteem would leave it all empty and regard the photo as a work of art, because bombarding a frame with redundant additions is boring. Personally, I prefer quiet and modesty. Even in my art I believe in the modesty of the frame, and think that a natural light is the most beautiful and most fitting.
// Translation from hebrew by Joy Bernard