Interview by Visual Collaborative
May 2019 7 min read
Efrat Cohen is a marketing and business development professional based in Minneapolis Minnesota by way of Israel. In the Voyager series, we discuss her love for the creative arts, the piano, being a photography enthusiast, and touch on the influences of her Jewish heritage.
(VC) Aside from your professional work, you are a creative enthusiast who can play the piano very well. Is this a hobby or you have actually performed in front of large audiences?
(Efrat) I’ve been an enthusiastic piano player ever since I first discovered it at our neighbor’s house, when I was 6 years old while playing around with their daughter, and asked my mother to teach me to play it. I then started taking professional lessons and had my first performance in front of a large audience 3 years later, as part of my instructor’s great annual concerts.
I took lessons for 7 years and had several performances during that time, learning incredibly-beautiful classical pieces, including a 6 hand composition by Mozart. These years of training gave me a unique way of viewing the world, offering infinite shades of colors, sounds, and textures, and giving me one of the best hobbies I could ask for my soul.
I’ve been practicing and playing the piano for my own pleasure ever since, entertaining mostly my family and close friends, aiming to perform again, with some more mesmerizing sounds.
(VC) In our Visual Collaborative event back in 2007, your image was used in an installation, it was a playful piece or selfie way before the actual word became famous. It showed you in the desert in Israel. Was that part of a mandatory service when you took the image?
(Efrat) Well, that’s actually a funny story I’m glad I get to explain. I took that picture as part of my mandatory service in the Israeli Defense Force back in 2002. It was taken at the technological training unit where I used to program and design training software. As part of my position, I was also in charge of shooting the still images for the software. This gave me the opportunity to travel around the country all day long many days, with a high-quality digital new camera and taking as many pictures as I wanted. This particular image, which I distinctly remember taking, was taken at my home base unit, located in central Israel, after a lunch break on a warm, sunny day. I used a Nikon Coolpix 4500, which introduced an innovative swivel design between the lens and the screen, allowing shots to be taken at any desired angle. I used to experiment with the camera and test its abilities as much as I wanted.
Photo courtesy of Efrat Cohen
While checking out my camera one afternoon, feeling playful and happy about life, sitting on a bench outside my office, and leaning my arms on my knees, the wind all of a sudden caught my attention. I immediately turned the lens in my direction, excited to capture my hair flowing gently in the air, adding a funny look to the frame, and eventually getting one of my first selfies to be published, indeed, long before this act was so commonly used.
(VC) You spend quite some time in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The climate is very different from the Middle East. What do you most like about the Twin Cities?
(Efrat) Most definitely I enjoy the general relaxing atmosphere surrounding the Midwest, particularly in my favorite Twin Cities area, as opposed to the stressful lifestyle I’ve been exposed to most of my life in my beloved homeland. But my love affair with the Twin Cities began in my early childhood years when we used to visit my mom’s family in St. Paul time and again, leaving me with no choice but to quickly fall in love with the well-known “Minnesota Nice” spirit.
And it’s not just about the people, who unconditionally smile at you whenever your eyes meet, but it’s also about the gorgeous green scenery, the countless marvelous lakes, the feeling of being out in nature when I’m actually right in the city and the practical convenience it has to offer when it actually comes to living a modern lifestyle.
(VC) Does your Jewish heritage play a significant part in your creative themes or would you say you move with topics of the current times?
(Efrat) My Jewish heritage certainly takes a meaningful role in my life, keeping our long past traditions close to my heart. When I come to think of its impact on my unconscious behavior, I find myself tending to get more emotionally moved when playing a Jewish song, quote the Bible when looking to describe certain types of art or life situations and, at times of discomfort with others, I’m guided by our Jewish values of treating others with kindness, fairness, and respect, of being honest and educated in order to become a better person every day.
(VC) In your quiet or noisy moments, how do you get inspired? What makes you create the work you do? Do you solely seek religion or get psychological like others for massive inspiration?
(Efrat) Well, it really depends on what I need the inspiration for. For instance, aside from my daily job as a marketing consultant, I do professional bridal and fashion makeup, a long time hobby which I turned to a profession (and I’m loving it) many years ago. So as a makeup artist, I’m continuously seeking new inspirations, which I tend to find mainly through exploring nature (colors, flowers, sky, etc.), music (especially when playing the piano), different types of textures, and many art paintings.
However, when looking for inspiration to solve business problems or to come up with tailored marketing solutions, I tend to mute myself from the surroundings and find my own peace of mind out in the desert, the ocean, or any other open space in nature, to get a wide perspective on things and to be able to think big- just like nature is.
Photo courtesy of Efrat Cohen
(VC) Some mention the Renaissance as an art period they admire. If you can time-warp back to any era what time would it be and why?
(Efrat) Oh, I’d travel way back in the days to our ancestors times, which I find extremely fascinating: their ways of communicating, raising families, building friendships, developing faith, finding their purpose in life (if any), developing community life and, in general, the evolution of us as individuals and as groups throughout those years. That’s art in my perspective, having none of what we have today but still, being creative enough to do all that, and from scratch.
(VC) At this stage of your professional career, If you could collaborate with any other brand or public figure in business who would it be and why?
(Efrat) I can definitely say I would love to collaborate with people or brands who aim to help others in achieving a healthier lifestyle, as a way of life (as opposed to quick-short diets). I don’t have particular names, as I rather have the “good match” than the right name. Having found my own way of changing habits and getting healthier in life decisions, nutritionally, physically, and emotionally, while helping others on my way, too, I would be most satisfied to do so on a larger scale through collaborating with others. That is my real passion in life.
(VC) What does self-awareness mean to you?
(Efrat) It means to be compassionate towards myself and others, to be aware of my emotions, reactions, and other’s perspectives, to be able to reflect on myself and re-frame when needed, to “step out” of situations and observe and to be aware of the infinite spectrum of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors out there, besides mine.
(VC) What kind of work can the world expect from Efrat within the next 5 years?
(Efrat) I would love to be able to combine my experience in marketing and business together with my own practice and knowledge of nutritional and mental health, to promote healthier approaches and habits in the lives of others.