'90s MTV icon turned Berkeley artist Tabitha Soren.

Berkeley photographer Tabitha Soren talks art and life after MTV on the 7x7 podcast

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Don't call her a veejay. I made that mistake when I asked Berkeley artist Tabitha Soren, a former MTV news correspondent, if she'd be a guest on the 7x7 podcast.

She was gracious—didn't mention the faux pas when she agreed to join me in the studio. But, as you'll hear very early on in the conversation, she didn't exactly let it slip by, either.


Night on the Green Fireworks (Fantasy Life)(Tabitha Soren)

I only bring this to your attention because I think I was surprised by this aspect of her personality—edgy and forthright. My California cuddliness was in such stark contrast to her New York edge—she had spent formative years there working as a high-profile journalist. (Tabitha brings this distinction to the fore during the lightning round at the end of the podcast.) And yet, there was a vulnerability and candor to our conversation that also struck me. Like when she talks about what happens to her at dinner parties that doesn't happen to her husband, journalist Michael Lewis (Moneyball, The Big Short), or when she says that her career path in news became less satisfying the higher she rose in the ranks. Or when she admits that the extent of what she knows about Oakland-born rapper Tupac Shakur came from the famous interview she did with him in 1995, about a year before his death. She seems surprised, and maybe even a little irked, that people still reach out to her to ask what he was like—how can you really know someone you've only spent a few hours with?

Kiss Goodnight (Surface Tension)(Tabitha Soren)

I only spent an hour with Tabitha, but seeing the world through her images—she's successfully pivoted her career toward fine-art photography—provides a little deeper insight into her mind. Like how her now-famous series "Fantasy Life" is less about baseball (she documented the 2003 Oakland A's draft class for 15 years) and more about ambition and what dreams may come—or not. Or how her images of churning ocean surf ("Panic Beach") can quite successfully incite fear and frenzy in the viewer. Or how her latest series, "Surface Tension," which she's exhibiting at her first solo show at Wellesley's Davis Museum through June 9, juxtaposes human grime and tech cool to illustrate a clash for the ages. It also makes you wonder what trails you've unknowingly left behind. Four words: Clear Browsing Data. Now. (And maybe three more: Screen Cleaner, STAT.)

Tune in to 7x7 Bay Area's "People Will Talk" episode with Tabitha Soren on iTunes and wherever you get your podcasts.

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