By Laura Bijnsdorp
Yotam Sandak is best described as an avid traveller, musician and photographer. The roguishly handsome artist has been to many corners on his journey to balancing and pursuing all of these passions. Today, he is either in Sint Maarten, on stage rocking out on his guitar or otherwise off-island at a luxury fashion shoot surrounded by models.
Yotam grew up in Tev Avis, Israel, to parents who had run away from the war in Europe, as many other Jews at the time. Contrary to the man I know, he describes himself as a ‘shy’ kid. He fell in love with photography at a young age: “I was seven when my uncle gave me a stack of National Geographic magazines. I lost hours of time just staring at the many amazing photographs. It made me very curious about the world.”
It was the 80’s and photo cameras were very expensive, and thus not a usual consumer item at the time. The only people who owned cameras were the rich, photographers and architects; his mom was the latter. “When I was about twelve, my mom allowed me to use her camera once in a while on family trips. Soon, I was ‘borrowing’ her camera so often that she gave it to me. I was fascinated with the human condition and so people became my favourite subject to photograph” Yotam remembers.
At 15, photography had to make way for Yotam’s newfound love of music. Yotam delved into not just playing music, but producing and managing artists as well. In search of adventure, Yotam ended up in Cape Town, where he studied sound engineering and furthered his career in the music business for eight years. Yotam: “Those were some amazing, but also tough years. I was working and performing 24/7. It wasn’t strange that I eventually got a burn-out.”
So Yotam took a break and started to work behind a bar, and as many a story evolve, he met a girl. Yotam grins: “She was a travel journalist, I fell in love, she inspired my photography, and we became a team and started to travel together.” The love story did not last that long, but Yotam’s renewed love of photography did not fade together with the romance. It might’ve been serendipity or Yotam’s charm that struck, but on Yotam’s first day back in Cape Town, he met another girl.
She did not offer romance, but she did offer an opportunity. “She was a stylist, and she and her team were looking for a photographer. We worked well together and she motivated me to take my craft seriously. Fashion photography is fun; it takes you to amazing locations with gorgeous models; what man would not enjoy that!?”
His photography career took Yotam to England, which was good for work, but bad for his spirit. Tired of the cold, he followed advice of another good friend, who also just happened to be a woman and went on vacation to Sint Maarten.
“At this point you might’ve noticed that women tend to steer my life, ha-ha!” Yotam smiles broadly and adds: “It was also a woman who gave me my first opportunity to work for her magazine, which spurred me to stay on Sint Maarten, and make it my base.”
Yotam has been living on the island for almost five years now, where he enjoys spending time with his friends and playing his music. Most of his work is abroad, satisfying not just his love of photography but also his wanderlust.
Although he dabbles in many forms of photography, his main income stems from fashion-related work. His work is breath-taking, but Yotam humbly does not accredit just his skills to this fact: “Fashion photography is not just about my job, which is finding the best light and angles. It is about whomever is on set, such as the client, location manager, stylist, assistant and model. Often people underestimate how much work the latter, the model, puts in. Good models are very creative people and need to know just as much as the photographer does to create a perfect visual.” These shoots often last more than 12 hours, but according to Yotam the long days are worth it once you see the completed images.
Being a fashion photographer, Yotam is obviously often surrounded by gorgeous women. Yet beauty is something the photographer says goes beyond physical appearance. Yotam: “Many of my favourite models are smart, live a healthy lifestyle, and have good relationships and care about the world. It might sound cliché, but honestly, love of self is key to true beauty.”
Check out Yotam’s work on www.yotamsandak.com.