Today the Venice Paparazzi Spotlight shines on Artist Debbie Zeitman.

How many years in Venice?  
I arrived in Venice in 1985, moving into a tiny guesthouse on Ozone Ave., not far from the boardwalk. I remained there for several years before moving into my current home in 1991.
Tell us about your art/medium? 
I’m a mashup of words and images. Long ago, I worked as a photojournalist shooting primarily sports before transitioning into the film business as a motion picture film editor on features and documentaries, but my camera was never idle for long. I started writing between my editing jobs feeling I had stories I wanted to explore and tell, and eventually I left film editing to focus on writing alongside a return to photography. Some of my art work combines words and images (viewable on And I’ve often donated my skills to causes I care deeply about, such as animal rescue, photographing shelter pets and telling their stories hoping to help them find rescue or forever homes. I guess I’m always evolving, but it seems as if in my core I’m a storyteller of sorts.
What projects are you currently working on?  
In May 2016 I came across a group of artists being forced from their studios. Their building was to undergo renovations, and while the artists had been offered to return upon completion of construction, most could not due to the sudden increase in their rents. I asked to photograph and speak to them in their spaces before they left. When I started photographing and interviewing the artists, I didn’t know where I would take the project, but knew I had to leap immediately. Since then I have photographed 55 Venice Beach artists. This turned into a project I’ve named ‘Before They Go’ (@beforetheygo on instagram). In early 2018, I compiled the portraits and stories of the artists I’ve met into a book with the hope that learning of the artists‘ stories will inspire people to buy their art or even to sponsor them as patrons. Because Venice without creators and its art spaces will be a very different Venice. This project has helped me identify how my heart aims to build community, for when I moved to Venice so many years ago I felt it was the first place I lived where I actually experienced a sense of community. But that doesn’t survive without conscious effort. So along with the Venice artist project, I’ve recently launched the website with the goal of holding events to bring people together. With all the turmoil in the world right now, so many of us feel powerless and defeated. Getting out from behind our screens and sharing time together, discussing the positive ways we want to give to the world, can really offer hope…
Upcoming events?
On Saturday, March 3rd from 6-9 pm, we are opening a group show of 29 artists from my ‘Before They Go’ project at The Hängar (3472 S. Centinela Ave., LA, CA 90066) organized by me and Barbara Lavery, one of the artists I met during the project. We’re really excited to shine the light on many of the assorted artists of Venice and see this show as a great opportunity to introduce many artists to the local community and beyond. For artists to remain in Venice, they need support. Our work will remain up for the month of March. In addition to this show, Barbara and I have been organizing events since last April at Wabi Venice called EAT ART where we hang a selection of my artist portraits and stories alongside the artwork of a featured Venice artist from the project. Wabi graciously hosts the openings. The next EAT ART will be in April, opening date still to be determined.
Where do you find inspiration/favorite artists? 
I’m one of those people whose eyes and ears are always open, and my inspiration comes most from just traveling the streets, observing those around me, overhearing conversations, seeing how people move through space. And I love public art projects, when art just integrates with or is placed upon our day to day lives.
What accomplishments, projects, or pieces that you are most proud of?  
There are pieces I’ve written that I’m proud of because I honestly don’t know where the words came from and they capture a sensation of my life that I didn’t know I really could find words for. But most proud? That probably would be related to the animal rescue photography I’ve done, when I learn that a photo I took of an animal in a high kill city shelter caught the eye of an adopter and got that animal into a loving home. To me, this can be the magic of photography.
Past art projects? Any pieces shown in Venice?  
I also have this on again, off again public art project where I tack up my words and images pieces printed postcard size on telephone poles around the community. I love the idea of people stumbling upon my thoughts when they are just moving through the community. And shortly before my Venice artist project, I embarked on a 30 Days/30 Portraits exercise, shot mostly in Venice of people I didn’t know. Unbeknownst to me, I think this set the foundation and became my training ground for the Venice artist project, for it put me into the situation of talking to strangers and capturing a nugget of their story. I can now identify how this paved the way to the artist project.
What advice would you give someone starting out in your field?  
Reinvent the wheel. If you think it’s all been done before you’ll never attempt anything. Don’t be cautious. It can’t be overstated: Be willing to let people see you fall flat on your face. And I need to take my own advice more often with sharing my creations with the world.

Favorite book, band or movie?   
This would be an impossible list for me. Too many things move me and have had impact. Art really can change the world.
What causes do you support?  
Right now – and probably always – there are so many causes that deserve our attention. It seems whenever we mention one, the question arises, “What about…?” as if passion about one thing excludes passion about another. My primary emphasis these days is veganism and animal rights, first and foremost for theanimals (I can’t stand their suffering at the hands of humans), with the added bonus of how this benefits the environment and makes more resources available to help humans. Compassion is my buzz word: for the animals, the earth, and our neighbors near and far. Getting people to linger and spend time together rather than rushing from one activity to the next lights me up.
What’s one thing we can do to make the world a better place? 
Talk to strangers. We need to talk to more strangers. And maybe wear nametags. I have this odd idea of a day of all of us wearing nametags and randomly greeting one another. Because really, why not?
Anything else you want to share about yourself to the world? 
It may sound cliche, but I aim to make a difference.


Describe your perfect day in Venice?
Nearly every day in Venice for me involves a run along the boardwalk. I feel beyond fortunate to get to see the ocean, hear the street musicians, shout hellos to the vendors I’ve passed for decades. And coffee. Every day includes coffee. And greeting passing dogs. I don’t really need much more to feel satisfied.
What Venice places would you take a visiting artist friend? 
I always take visitors to walk the canals because it is such a special spot to me. There’s such a quiet tranquility there, and it’s hard to believe busy boulevards are steps away. And I like showing off the random street art and am always certain to pass by the murals of Venice in assorted locations.
What is your craziest or fondest Venice experience? 
It’s really not all that crazy, but I’m a big fan of the Venice boat parades and the rubber ducky race. How can you experience either without a smile overtaking your face?
Anything else about Venice that you would like to say?
I know change is inevitable, but I miss some of the sleepier times in Venice, when Abbot Kinney was a true community street. Seeing so many of the long time businesses disappearing breaks the heart. But I won’t give up on Venice. We still can come together and maintain a local vibe.
Who should Venice Paparazzi cast the spotlight on next?
Jules Muck, but it’s hard for me to believe that you haven’t already focused on her since she has contributed so much to the streets of Venice. If you’ve already featured her, I’d say Rohitash Rao. His creativity knows no limits. And I really could go on and on with other ideas.

Where can one find you?

Other Website

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