David E. Tadmor is a man of many hats. You may know him as a lawyer. Tadmor is the founding and managing partner of Tadmor Levy & Co., a leading Israeli law firm. He is a former Director-General of the Israel Competition Authority, and a recognized leading expert in competition, regulatory and administrative law. He handles complex litigation and arbitration and is an experienced mergers and acquisitions lawyer. He holds a first degree in law from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem as well as Master and Doctorate degrees in law from New York University, where he was a Fulbright Scholar. Tadmor also practiced with the law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz for five years. He hosted a weekly hour-long radio show on legal matters on Galei Tzahal for 5 years.
Tadmor is also an accomplished and exhibited photographer.
Combining an intense and successful career with a passion for art may seem difficult but as Tadmor himself explains, these are parallel paths that actually require many common qualities. Those fortunate enough to engage with the more thought-provoking and interesting aspects of the law know that creative thinking and a sharp eye are essential. Both fields demand intuition, an observant nature and critical analytic skills. Both also involve a constant dialogue with the past, whether these are legal precedents or an ongoing engagement with those who practiced and theorized about photography before you. In other words, although they are different in many respects, the two worlds are nonetheless two sides of a dynamic and industrious lifetime of creativity and paying attention.
Interests and Inspirations
Inheriting his father’s love of photography, Tadmor has been photographing since he was six years old. He explains that photography has become part of who he is. He has become accustomed to seeing the world in frames, which may either be the result of his long-standing interest in photography or perhaps the reason for it. He has been influenced by some of the 20th century’s greatest photographers, including Eugène Atget, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Robert Capa, Sebastião Salgado, Thomas Struth, André Kertész and Elliott Erwitt. His main areas of focus are landscape, urban landscape, street photography and portraiture. His photography is a combination of documentation and art, creating new interpretations whilst maintaining a discourse with images and photographers of the past.
Tadmor’s earliest images involved documentary photography that did not have any artistic inspirations. He mostly focused on family, friends and events he witnessed or was part of. Whereas these days photography has become a pervasive aspect of contemporary life, back then documenting the mundane was far less common. The result is a meaningful private collection of what life in that era of Israeli history was like.
His interest in portraiture began with his family and personal acquaintances. Portraiture is often discussed as an encounter between the subject and the photographer. Tadmor’s images capture the emotion and complexity in the faces of his subjects but also project his own outlook and experiences into the image. This has become all the more evident in Tadmor’s work following the birth of his twins as well as his aging parents. It sparkled a phase of intimate portraits clearly depicting a sense of tenderness and the caring eye of the photographer towards his subjects, well reflected also in his photography of his youngest son.
Tadmor’s later works show the persistence of portraiture in his oeuvre. Tadmor’s human-centered perspective and interest in creating candid imagery of his subjects explains why he has been drawn to street photography. By using the volatile street life to create impromptu street portraits, Tadmor always aims to capture the genuine and un-staged essence of his subjects. In contemporary visual culture, where viewers have become highly accustomed to polished and photoshopped images, random street photography preserves the originality that many of us crave by capturing authentic imagery of spontaneous moments.
A good street photographer must possess an eye for detail, light, and composition, impeccable timing and an untiring ability to constantly shoot, aiming to never miss that fleeting moment in which the next great picture potentially lies. Tadmor’s recurring themes include portraits and human interactions, architecture, urban landscapes and seemingly subjective objects captured as if telling a story of their own.
A major part of his life and one very evident in his photographic endeavors is Tadmor’s love of travel: his photography spans continents and cultures. As an avid traveler, Tadmor’s images engage with urban as well as natural landscapes. Good travel photographs portray the accurate appearance of a destination and also capture its unique ambiance. Tadmor’s urban landscapes present his interest in urban aesthetics as well as the city’s inhabitants. This body of work embodies the continuous novelty and excitement of travel where creative exploration leads to unexpected and exciting images, artistically rearticulating the urban space through his images. His natural landscapes often attempt to evoke an emotion. He connects to places aesthetically, eternalizing and passing on to his viewers feelings a locale can evoke. Tadmor’s choice to often take pictures of natural landscapes devoid of human presence puts the purity of nature or the sheer visual power of the location in the foreground. Focusing on the location rather than its inhabitants creates a sense of awe and reverence, not unlike historic artistic imagery of nature that was once associated with the sublime.
Related to both travel and an interest in landscape photography, Tadmor’s awareness of nature also becomes apparent. His joyful images of animals illustrate his deep emotional experiences as do his ongoing projects depicting trees and the dense mystery of forests. His pictures of trees portray them as ancient anthropomorphic beings, reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantastical tree creatures.
Tadmor uses his photography as a way of life, as an ongoing passion and as an artistic way to document the many details that would otherwise have been long lost. Despite photography’s pervasive use as daily documentation, it is often said that a photographer’s photos say more about the person behind the camera than his subjects. This relates to the ongoing discourse in photography, placing the medium between the objective and the subjective, between automatism and agency. Tadmor’s photography preserves his memories but also presents reality from his personal perspective. By creating unique juxtapositions that contribute new meaning even to the most mundane of subjects, Tadmor’s photography thus acts as an aesthetic and philosophical observation of life.
Tadmor is medium format photographer, taking full advantage of high-resolution digital backs and technical cameras to explore details unseen by the naked eye. They are essential tools in his half-century trip that explores the road but leads to no preconceived destination.
In his early years Tadmor mostly used a small Kodak Instamatic, his parents’ 1950s Leica, an Olympus OM and Cannon cameras. His passion for photography also incorporates his related innovative nature and technological savviness. From a young age, Tadmor’s interest lies in the entire photographic process which has many stages. This includes the experience surrounding the equipment, the actual stage of photographing images, the production and development procedure, the viewing of the final images and the publishing, exhibition and distribution of pictures. Currently he uses Phase One and Sony cameras.
Even early on Tadmor would often develop and print his own images, which enabled greater control over the entire photographic process. However, when color photography became more widely accessible, the development procedure became too expensive for home use. The novelty of color photography attracted him nonetheless, even though it meant succumbing to reduced levels of authorial control over the process. What remained was the actual photographing (or “click moment”) whereas the rest of the practice was taken over by others, professionals. This eliminated a substantial part of the photographic process and experience for Tadmor.
In 1993 Tadmor returned to Israel after living in the US for several years and studying at NYU. It was around that time, with the development of computers for home use, that the convergence of computer capabilities and photography entered his life and inspired him further. At this stage table scanners and printers already existed. This meant that Tadmor could now independently scan, process and print his photos, regaining much of the previously lost control over the photographic process.
Once the computer became more fully integrated in the photographic practice, it became an ideal combination of two of Tadmor’s specialties – computers and cameras - that enabled a renewed involvement in the photographic process in its entirety. This meant that the creative practice throughout the full photographic production course became more significant. The next important stage was progressing to a digital camera in which the fusion between camera and computer was complete.
Today Tadmor also does his own printing work on large format Epson printers and is thus completely self-sufficient, in full control of the creative process.