Shae DeTar is a New York City photographer whose vivid, hand-painted imagery evoke scenes from a Jodorowsky film.

An actress and model turned photographer, Shae DeTar has an innate grasp of how the human form works in composition. She creates mindblowing imagery by shooting on location in deserts, forests, and mountains, then hand-painting the prints.

Shae DeTar has been featured in Nylon, Vogue UK, Juxtapose, and she will be showing her work next Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 from 6pm-9pm at Kinfolk Art Gallery in Williamsburg (94 Wythe Ave, 11249 NY). She was kind enough to speak with us at Beautiful Savage about her work, her influences, and her beginnings as a photographer.

To connect with Shea DeTar visit


Hey Shae, for the uninitiated, who are you and what do you do?

I’m an artist in NYC. I specialize in photography and mixed media. I paint on my photos, and sometimes I collage them.

How did you begin doing this?

When I was a young teenager in the 90s, I was studying to become an actress. I was doing theatre and commercial work…and my whole world revolved around that. However as a side thing, I would always put together these collages from magazines and paint all over them. It wasn’t until I was around 19 and living in Milan as a model that my roommate, who happened to be an artist, suggested I go to school for graphic design at SVA. I quit modeling and enrolled immediately. I hated graphic design school, and I always ended up turning my assignments into painted works. However that didn’t quite fit into the graphic design program and I had to quit. It wasn’t until about 5 years ago that my husband suggested I try photography, so I picked up a camera and started exploring. As soon as I printed my first photos, I instantly went to painting on them like I had as a teenager and that’s where it all started.

Another World[1]

As a photographer, you’re known pretty widely for having a surreal, sensual style. Would you agree to this assessment?

No, I wouldn’t use the word sensual to describe my work. I’m never trying to arouse anyone in a sexual way. I’m more interested in the female form as a muse for making a beautiful, surreal image that can transport you into another dimension. I love old impressionist paintings from the 1800’s, the women in those paintings seem so magical, like they are placed in a world that doesn’t exist anymore. I think I am often trying to capture something like that, in my own modern way. And really, at the root of it all, I am just playing…I am experimenting and exploring the act of creating.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

Colorful, playful, experimental, surreal and sometimes quirky.


When did you first begin creating this type of work?

As a teenager, but I would draw on other people’s photos from magazines. As an adult, I rediscovered this process about 5 years ago when I picked up a camera to try my hand at photography.

What are you working on right now?

Right this minute I am working on an 8 page job for a pretty big magazine. They have me photographing a bunch of upcoming female musicians and then they are letting me collage and paint on their images. It’s amazing that a very mainstream magazine will let me let loose and play. So many magazines in the US play it safe and want generic images, so I’m very excited for the opportunity. Aside from all that, I’m trying to save money for my next 2 photo series shoots. I’m so anxious to shoot them! Since they do involve travel and costumes, I need a budget for that…so I have to save up some money to be able to make my visions a reality.


What’s life like as a photographer who shoots models out in nature, in rivers and streams? You create a pretty magical world. Is the production just as magical? Is life?

The production is fun in a very different way. It’s a bunch of girls piled into a car with my dog Waylon as our mascot. You really get to know each other on these day trips, because you are in a car for a long time and it really connects you to people, way more than just meeting someone for coffee. Especially since we are often climbing mountains and getting naked along roadways and ducking from cars and boats that are floating by, with 5 naked girls in red wigs, plus me, the camera and my dog Waylon by my side…let’s just say, it is always an adventure.


What are you listening to right now on Soundcloud or Spotify?

My husband is a musician so a lot of my music taste comes from him. He is also a film composer so I listen to a lot of classical music and film scores. I also adore Bjork, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, Bob Dylan and lately I’ve been listening to Susan Sundfor and Jay Z.


Who are your influences?

Impressionist painters, surrealism and Modern Art are my main influences. Artists like Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Egon Schielle, Klimt, Dali, Vuillard, to be more specific. Although I do keep up with photography, I try to stay away from looking at too much of it, since I don’t want to subconsciously have people’s work in my mind.

Can you tell us about the work you’re submitting to Kinfolk Gallery? What is this show about?

I’ve submitted 2 pieces. One is called ‘Hide and Seek’ which was photographed in Arizona in 2014 and it is a very peaceful image to me. The viewer confronts a woman sitting with her back to the camera, in the middle of these orange painted desert rocks. When I get stressed out, a place like that, in the middle of nowhere but bright, is the perfect place to escape to. The other piece I submitted is called ‘Butterfly, which was photographed in the Angeles Mountains in 2013. That piece is one of my more antique looking ones. You have no idea from what time period it is from or if it’s a real place or not, due to heavy paint and costume of the image. It could be from a dream…I’m often interested in taking the viewer out of reality just a little.

"Butterfly" (2014) By Shea DeTar

“Butterfly” (2013) By Shea DeTar

What was production like for this piece you’ve submitted?

For ‘Hide and Seek’, it was me, my friend Kelly Ash and my dog Waylon, driving cross country for 5 days and just stopping at beautiful places for like 30 minutes to shoot. I then came home and printed photos and began to paint and just played with the images and tried to see what would come of it. I still pull out images from that road trip and make new painted pieces from time to time. That’s the cool thing about art, you can always make something different, depending on what you are feeling at each moment, it’ll always look like something new.

For ‘Butterfly’ I spent a few days looking for a special costume and I took this artist Arianna with me and my brother up a few hours into the Angeles Forest and we just spent the day driving along the Angeles Crest and shooting when we saw beautiful spots. That was the last shot of the day as the sun was going down and there was actually fog everywhere. I painted the sky out, so you can’t see that but, the sky was actually insane! It was pink, orange and fogy, like it was out of a science fiction movie. But it informed the shot, because it felt emotional and mystical, so I went with it.