Lucas Levitan has been taking the World by storm, or at least he’s been taking the instagram World by storm! Invading the accounts of unsuspecting users and “stealing” their photos only for them to re-appear enhanced and with Lucas’s unique characters posed all over them giving them a whole new life.
It’s something that’s been gaining Lucas a lot of attention “I create a surprising partnership with other users by ‘stealing’ their images” he says. “I use the word ‘stealing’ instead of ‘choosing’ because it gives a better understanding of the process. I don’t ask for permission which gives both, photographer and myself, autonomy and respect each one’s role in the process.”
In fact it’s often with delight that people respond to finding out their image has been doctored in such a loving way. Never nasty, the images are given a whole new lease of life as they enter Lucas’s cartoon World. “I haven’t had any complaints from any of my ‘victims’ yet, quite the opposite, some of them have became my friends” says Lucas. “I hope it’s seen as a kind and ‘honourable form of robbery’.”
Lucas is a Brazilian multi-media artist from Porto Alegre. He came to London 10 years ago to study an MA in Art and Design at the Camberwell College of Arts. He fell in love with the city and then with a girl, working in advertising and design to pay the bills but always still keeping to his roots as an artist. “I’m an illustrator today, filmmaker last week, photographer last month and conceptual artist last year” he says of his style.
Coming from a family of artists it’s perhaps not suprising he hasn’t pigeon holed himself. His father Claudio is a cartoonist, musician and “genius” as he describes him whilst his mother Eneida Serrano is a “fantastic photographer”, not a bad combination given his eye for an image and his talent for illustration.
But it was an event from recent history that spurred him on to really do more of what he loved. A near miss prompting him to re-evaluate what it is he wanted to do, “A brick fell from the 4th floor scaffolding of a building site and missed me by millimetres”. That close shave prompted him to dedicate more time to his art “it was a turning point” said the man who since last October has been spending 100% of his time on art related projects, “I’ve never been so happy to wake up every morning” he tells me and even though this interview is being conducted over email I could swear he is beaming!
Maybe it’s some of that love for his art which is what can be seen in his instagram invasion project and it perhaps explains some of the reasons why people have responded so well to them and indeed the number of followers he has been gaining on social media has been growing as a result. “I never had any big expectation” he tells me “the full satisfaction comes in the process of doing it, now that it’s getting more visibility and followers I can start thinking how to develop it further.” A book perhaps? Maybe, it looks like we’ll have to wait and see, “I’ve been expanding the project to what I called ‘Photo Invasion – The Untold Stories‘ a comic version where I bring to life many of the characters I use on Instagram.” He’s already made a start and a few stories have been created already.
Last year Lucas even took his photo invasion project to the streets of Shoreditch with an immersive outdoor experience outside in the summer evening. Partnering with pop up gallery ‘Art No Cube‘ this was a one night only gig moving the project from cyberspace to a real space, invading a different neighbourhood displaying his art of the street. It became a street party with gypsy swing rock n roll band ‘Boom La Tete’ adding live music and 300 people coming along to see what all the fuss was about.
“London breathes art and culture” says Lucas, “It’s a multicultural city and that’s the reason I came and I’m still living here for almost 10 years.” However he still finds the more ‘official’ art scene a bit too formal “I like informality, casuality, when art happens by necessity not built to feed a commercial purpose.” Even the small galleries he says are institutionalised. “They create openings that mimic the big ones with drinks and small talks around artworks hanged on walls.”
And what about painting on the streets, has he ever thought of transferring his talents outdoors and could we see the debut of an exciting new street artist? “I met David de Brito, a Brazilian urban artist based in London who invited me to make my characters in large scale. I loved the idea so much I couldn’t take it from my head since then” he tells me. Exciting times then and I think it’s fair to say that his characters would create a bit of a buzz “I’m looking forward to learning and seeing how my stories fit on the streets”.
“I have a great memory from the process of doing almost all of them” says the artist as he reflects on his project so far. “A few of them became more successful with more ‘likes’ than the others, but my favourites are always the ones I get anxious to publish. It happens when I think I found an unique story behind the original image.” He cites the example of his interventions on the photos of @fabsgrassi, @thekwentin, @uwa2000, @jankse, @jfobranco and @blacksonik as examples of what represent the main objective of his work. “The original images are great, and my illustrative touch takes the story to an unexpected place. I hope they make people smile.”
Lucas Levitan is a London based multi-media artist from Brazil. His instagram invasion project has been running since March last year and involves the ‘stealing’ and re-imagining of photographs from instagram accounts around the World. His website can be found at www.lucaslevitan.com and examples of his ‘Untold Stories‘ can be found here. He was interviewed over email on 5 January 2015.
Lucas Levitan Instagram Invasion Gallery