Klara Landrat was born in Warsaw, Poland, grew up in Libya, North Africa, and spent the rest of her adolescence in New York where she started modeling. This led to her extensive travels to Italy, Israel, and Poland as well as within the US. She never defined her nationality, becoming a true globetrotter and having many homes; such as in New York, LA or Tel Aviv. As a model and actress Klara worked with clients like Miho Nikaido-Hartley, Patricia Fistes Adams, Charlotte Ronson, Nico & Adrian, Boy meets Girl, Aoyama Itchome, Fiorucci, Moschino, Patrizia Pepe, Karl Lagerfeld. Upon receiving rigorous training at Hunter College City University of New York and performing in theaters all over the city, she landed a role in renown New York directors play David Levine. Fascinated by theater she worked on shows that oscillated between dance and theater and some were strongly rooted in old Japanese theater form- Butoh. Her love for the dramatic arts propelled her to also work on film, such as Zoolander (dir. Ben Stiller) and a few independent productions. Simultaneously, her photographic work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including the “Tallit Project” by Gallery Nine Five, NY. Having lived in Poland stripped almost entirely of its Jewish community; the artist went on a series of trips to revisit her homeland, rediscover her past and to commune with her ancestors. In this tribute to the artists lost family, Tallit Project grew out of the search for life and the recognition of its tangible, unforgettable qualities. Eager for challenge and to fulfill her dreams she packed her heavy loaded bags once more, this time heading to LA where her new creative chapter began. To fill the void photography couldn’t, Klara continued to perform, believing strongly that there are many branches from the same tree and not only one needs to be cherished. Having classical ballet training, flamenco, and movement with a legendary dance choreographer- Willy Ninja (William R. Leake) Klara fit her intense work out training of many sports into her life such as sailing, diving and boxing. She believes that there is no stronger force than imagination, which makes us from what we believe into what we become.
Jessica: Klara, it’s so wonderful to have the opportunity to feature you in TSM.
Klara: Thank you very much for having me here.
Jessica: What a multi-talented woman you are – actress, model, photographer and producer! You’re also a globetrotter having lived and traveled to different parts of the world. I imagine that the diverse cultures and countries you’ve experienced gave you a lot of inspiration.
With all your talents, I’m unsure where to begin…I’ll start on the modeling side of things.
At what age did you start modeling? Can you recall your very first shoot?
Klara: My first photo shoot happened when I was about sixteen years old in Italy. I remember I didn’t know what I was doing but the photographer kept on saying- “bella”- I assumed that was a good sign!
Jessica: What inspired you to get into acting? Is there a role in particular that stands out as a favorite for you?
Klara: Acting happened to me when I was still a little girl living in Europe. In fact, the big film studio in Warsaw, Poland was looking for a nine year old with a great voice and presence. Apparently, they sifted through thousands of them and picked me! I felt very special and it was quite amazing to feel it as child. Later on, as I worked in different creative fields, I found a new love for cinema and theatre while living in New York City. I think the proximity to Broadway and constant saturation of theatre life prompted me to get into it again, this time in the US. In regards to a favorite role, I recall working with a director Neil Breen on the independent production in Las Vegas last year, on the feature called Secret, currently in post production. It was my first co-starring role as a frail, conflicted woman who eventually dives down into severe depression while being addicted to different kind of pills. It was a challenging role and it took a lot out of me.
Jessica: What was it like working on the film Zoolander with Ben Stiller?
Klara: That was one of my first roles on a big budget movie. I was excited to work with Ben, who is such a talented personality; strong minded; and also a very, very kind man. It was a huge production, therefore, a lot of scenes I was in were shot with few hundred other people in an old factory in Queens. We were given dust masks, due to heavy dust floating in the air, but it was amazing to see how Ben coordinated everything so smoothly.
Jessica: Did you have training in photography too? Or are you self-taught?
Klara: I was interested in photography as long as I remember. My father gave me my first camera in Tripoli, Libya, where I grew up. I remember it was a Canon. That was my first experience. Later on I enrolled for a year at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, which taught me a lot, but I decided to do it on my own and my own terms. This is where I started working on the “Tallit Project” and then portraits.
Jessica: What are your favorite subjects to photograph?
Klara: I love people and being around people. I think this is the prevailing aspect of my work, as long as I discover something about the other person, listen to his history as this is where I feel I am learning something new. That’s why portraits are my fascination. It’s just so fantastic to get invited to someone’s heart and be able to portray that. I think it’s the intimacy that a portraiture evokes that I find so fascinating. As a human being we often feel so guarded, while through portraits you can just convey their entire being without saying a word. I find it very mystifying.
Jessica: Tell us a little bit more about the “Tallit Project.”
Klara: “Tallit Project” started long time ago. I wasn’t even sure if I would continue with the series, but since I traveled quite a bit to Poland, and having such conflicted feelings about my family history and my own heritage, I discovered that the more I photographed over there the more narrative the photographs became. “Tallit Project” is a tribute to my family lost in The Holocaust, but also it’s a tribute to all who perished not only in WWII. When I went to visit these places and sights, I couldn’t help but feel the presence of the world that perished…It was very strong. I wanted to document it, but I didn’t want to be a photojournalist. I was looking for something more of a metaphorical vessel. “Tallit” comes from the Aramaic word, which means a “blanket for the soul,” and since it is a prayer shawl I found it to be a perfect “symbol” that would represent everything I wanted to say…As far as technical aspects, I did it all on 35 mm, which I printed all by myself in my loft in Brooklyn and then toned with different chemicals to achieve the final and satisfying image.
Jessica: What projects are you currently working on?
Klara: At the moment I am working with my production company, Velrana Productions on developing a feature based on life of a serial killer and a TV series about three foreign-born women trying to conquer Hollywood. Velrana Productions was founded by Lana Carter, me ( Klara Landrat) and Vera Petrychenka. We formed this partnership with the goal of composing influential and original works as women in the film and media industries. Our projects are dedicated to creating opportunities for women as artists, and weaving stories that will inspire our audiences and ourselves.
Jessica: Who are some performers/photographers/models you admire?
Klara: I am inspired every day! As far as my idols, that was for certain Freddie Mercury, Richard Avedon, Louise Bourgeoise, I. Kant, R. Polanski, Ingrid Bergman, David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman, Froncois Ozon, Andrzej Wajda, Yves Saint Laurent, Grace Jones.
Jessica: If you had the power to do something in the world today, what would it be and why?
Klara: It would be peace. We are living in conflicted times again and again. Looking back through history, human beings are greedy by nature. There is very little compromise in the world. I think if I had the power to diminish conflicts, it would be that. It all starts with education and understanding.This would be my priority.
Jessica: What is one of your favorite quotes (or lines) that inspires you?
Klara: “Imagination is the highest kite one can fly” – Lauren Bacall.
Jessica: Anything else you’d like to share? And where can our readers find out more about you and your work?
Klara: Please feel free to find me on IMDB, or go directly to my websites: www.klaralandrat.com and www.klaralandratphotography.com. If you wish to view my “Tallit Project” on the web, please go to my gallery website www.prints995.com.
Jessica: Thank you so much for doing this interview and wish you all the best with everything in the future.
Klara: Thank you very much Jessica. It was a pleasure connecting with you. All the best to you as well!