With a combination of well-curated clothing, luring set design, vibrant color and stunning female figures, Shae DeTar is a one-stop-shop when it comes to creating images that feel like spellbinding daydreams. Her technique of handpainting photographs dates back to before color processing, making the feeling of her work inevitably vintage. I was instantly smitten the first time I stumbled upon Shae’s photographs, and completely ecstatic when she agreed to let me pick her brain.
LF: Describe your style in five words or less.
SD: Colorful, quirky, antique, 60’s.
LF: When was the first time you picked up a camera? What inspired you to paint your photographs?
SD: I started taking pictures 4 years ago. I began painting on images as a teenager in the early 90’s… but I was painting on other people’s photos, images I would find in magazines. I’m not sure what brought that on. I remember when I was older, around 20 years old, walking into an art gallery in SoHo and meeting the artist Peter Beard and just falling in love with his work, but that was after I had already been painting on images… so I don’t know!
LF: Your painted photographs have a surreal aesthetic to them. What is your creative process?
SD: It depends on the project and whether it is for a client or for myself. When it is for personal work, I usually drive around looking for locations that inspire me, I look through painting books from the past, I listen to music. Lately though, I am shooting a lot of nudes, so I am in a different experimental mode. I’m also contemplating starting to explore studio shots, I’d like to try and get creative in a studio and see what happens. I’m determined to grow a lot more this year.
LF: Who is your biggest muse and where do you find inspiration?
SD: My biggest muse is color and nature. I find inspiration in both color and nature, more than anything else. And then music is right behind that. Music adds energy to the instant rush that color naturally brings me.
LF: The styling of your photographs is always on point. Who/what is the source to all of the gorgeous clothing your models wear?
SD: Thank you!, that’s so kind of you to say 🙂 The styling has been more or less my love affair with beautiful and often theatrical clothing. I would definitely say there are gorgeous pieces of modern day clothing that I would LOVE to shoot, but I don’t have access to them so I have used what I can get my hands on which has been vintage. If I can’t find it, I make it… and this is all very time consuming, but It does add an element to the image, so it’s worth putting time into hand making it.
LF: I love the vintage nature of your photographs. If you could have been a part of any era which would you chose?
SD: It’s interesting, because I don’t look at my images and think vintage… I’m more interested in the fantasy of color and I try and create something that isn’t always based in reality, but more like being in a dream. Pink and yellow tree trunks, blue and green rocks and rainbows sprinkled throughout the image. Sure, I give hints of vintage, in the headpieces I make or the clothing I use, but as for the complete image, I don’t think my work is vintage looking. It’s more modern mixed with some vintage aspects.
As for my favorite era… the 1800’s!
LF: Your artwork is very dreamy, describe a recent dream you’ve had.
SD: Actually, I always only remember the sad dreams. I’ve always been scared that my parents will die, ever since I was younger. I’m sooo close with my mom and dad, and I have these dreams that they die and it’s awful!! Either they die or my dog or my husband. Terrified, clearly of losing my loved one. Not ideal dreams to have. Process so enjoyable.
LF: Being a former model do you prefer to be the subject of a photograph, or the eye behind the lens? How is the creative process different?
SD: I prefer being behind the lens. I think when you are in front of a camera, it’s more of a performance and great models are able to process what you express to them and then they act it out for you. Modeling can be a tough job and when you find a model that listens and gives you what you need to create something fun, it’s the best thing! It’s a very collaborative process and the model is such a huge piece of the art puzzle. I think that is why photographers sometimes have “muses” that they use over and over again… because certain models just “get it” and they are so easy to create with that it makes the whole process so enjoyable.
LF: How fast do you live?
SD: I travel a lot which makes life feel fast moving. I have a home in nyc and outside the city in another state further away, so I’m always going from one home to the next and going from one job to the next. It’s a lot of travel and I always feel like life is happening so fast and I wish I could just sit and rest and read a book. But then when you do have a day off, you almost don’t know how to chill out and just watch tv, because you are so used to moving around so fast. It’s hard for me to turn my brain off.