Tasya van Ree is captivating. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting across from her, you know what we mean. She’s an artist, photographer, and noted clotheshorse whose multimedia body of work resonates with even the casual observer. She’s fueled by her emotional proximity to both life and death, thoughtfully analyzing the fluid relationship between the two. Throughout every medium, her muse is the human experience.
Growing up in Hawaii, Tasya landed stateside in 1994. She picked up a camera and has cultivated an idyllic life v. art balance ever since. These days, it’s a film camera: Hasselblad to be exact—she finds it much more powerful. Her contrast-y, intimate portraits echo the greats—think Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts, and Ellen von Unwerth—and have garnered her praise from prestigious outlets like Interview Magazine, Elle, Bullett, and The Coveteur. With such legitimate industry cosigns, Tasya has become a compelling figure in the fashion and art communities. Iconic Americana brand Stetson took note. This fall, the two will release a reissue and redesign of her favorite vintage Stetson hat for the masses.
We caught up with Tasya at her Laurel Canyon bungalow to take a peek at the collaboration. The “wooden spaceship” as she calls it, is dripping with natural light, and is one of the many spots she’s called home since moving to LA. The bright, yet cozy wood paneled structure serves as the perfect backdrop for her magical existence.
LA CANVAS: How did you get into photography? How do you feel your work has evolved since?
Tasya van Ree: The human body and mind can deliver quite the theatrical performance, which can leave a significant, but invisible, imprint on someone who is captured by all of its movement. I got into photography because I wanted to document this descriptive narrative and the impression that it left upon me in a visual and tangible way. I really wanted to translate the psychological and physical effect that it had on me through art. Photography was the medium that could transform what I was seeing and feeling into something I could share with others. I am fine-tuning my own existence here in time and space, expanding every day. And as a result, the expansion of my perspective through art is also becoming endless and profound in a completely different way. It’s the natural process of evolution of an artist/human being I suppose.
LAC: You’ve become known for inky, B+W portraits, but last fall you surprised everyone with colorful, nostalgic shots in your show A State of Mind and the Affairs of its Games. What inspired the change?
TVR: Sometimes you see things in black and white, and other times you see them in color. I was in a colorful state of mind.
LAC: We’ve been seeing a lot of textural photos of desert landscapes, cacti, and horses on your Instagram feed lately. What do you have up your sleeve?
TVR: I’ve been intrigued with Nature’s reflection lately. It has a universal magnetism that is both spatial and internal at the same time. It feels important to me to explore both sides of this dream at this point in my life—to lose myself in the harmonic balance of my surroundings. The closeness that I’m beginning to feel to myself, to my art, is extremely comforting and infinitely inspiring.
LAC:With regard to aesthetic, what is it about the American West that resonates with you?
TVR: It’s freedom.
LAC: You’re known to mix high-end designers like Rick Owens and Nicolas Kirkwood with iconic vintage accessories—most notably, Stetson hats. Can you tell us a bit about your affinity for the Americana brand?
TVR: I’m really drawn to the principles and authenticity of this brand. It is timeless and iconic, and at the same time strong with a hint of elegance. Anything that can stand the test of time (150 years) with such beauty and grace, I respect.
LAC: How did the collaboration with Stetson come to fruition?
TVR: It was actually the hat that brought us together. My favorite hat that I always wear is a vintage Stetson and somehow, through the wonders of social media, we began a dialog, and later, a collaboration.
LAC: Can you walk us through your collaborative process?
TVR: It was such an amazing process. I visited the factory in Garland, Texas and got to meet all of the wonderful people who work there. It’s exactly what you think the Stetson factory would be like: hats everywhere and everything being done by hand. It was so interesting seeing these artists creating sculptural pieces of art, one by one. I got to really go in and be a part of the Stetson world. That experience really inspired and guided me into the design of this hat, which I named “The Signature.” I modeled it around the vintage Stetson hat that I own/love, that brought us together, and added a few extra design elements—making it that much more special. It’s really a beautiful hat with so much meaning and character.
LAC: So what’s this we hear about horses?
TVR: I’ve started a new series on horses and nature that I’ll be showing in Paris in the beginning of November. It is based on the interaction between the two and how their sacred worlds exist in a melodically sequenced sense of reality, all based on the idea of order and mystery. I’ve also begun to play polo this summer, which opened up another outlet for expression. I’m documenting the behind-the-scenes aspect of it—largely focused on the horses—and putting together a photography book of this imperial sport.
LAC: Since this is the Gentleman’s Issue, can you tell us a little bit about your relationship to gender with regard to your work, as well as your personal style? How are they alike? How are they dissimilar?
TVR: I feel like we are shifting into a space where the idea of gender is becoming obsolete, and the acceptance of that sentiment is becoming more and more recognized. I’ve always explored this concept within my work, within my personal life. Everything is alike, and everything is different at the same time. We are all just moments of time locked into the expression of self—living life as best we can. Everyone is everything… I truly believe this.
The Tasya van Ree x Stetson collaboration will be available Oct. 1 on Stetson.com / Photography by Josie Simonet