After two really disappointing exhibitions that I have seen at Notte Bianca, I finally had luck to stumble upon “The Likeness Project” – a recent display of works by Kevin Casha at St James Cavalier Center for Creativity in Valletta. It was, as cliché saying goes, a breath of fresh air for my sense of aesthetics.
I will be honest. Kevin and I go a long way back; we have known each other for years. I first met him during Aperture seminar in October 2006. Freshly out of a journalism course (which was very disappointing!) I wanted to network with the local photographic community. As I virtually knew nobody, I half dragged a friend along with me.
She was bored out of her mind twenty minutes into the panel and spent the rest of the evening next to the finger food table. I was hopelessly cruising among the crowd trying to find somebody to talk to. I finally stopped in front of a guy who looked like a soul of the party and asked him something terribly silly. Instead of dissing me, he spent next two hours explaining me how local community worked and introduced me to half of the room. At the end he recommended I take my friend home while she still fits through the door. That’s Kevin for you – incredibly helpful and friendly, with a particular sense of humor.
Since then we have been through many photographic events, panels, conventions and courses together. I attended his workshops and consider him a good friend. That of course, doesn’t cloud my preferences. I have seen several exhibitions by Kevin over the years and not liked all of them. We have this sort of relationship that he will always offer an honest critique of my works and I will always tell what I really think of his exhibitions.
So what’s the wow-factor in his recent body of work? Will it sound intriguing if I say that Kevin decided to ditch all the photoshops, all the air brushes and all the glamour and moved back to the origins of photography? He still did all the work digitally, but kept the post production side of things to a bare minimum, just like in the good old days.
Kevin Casha is primarily a glamour/studio photographer. He works with people that look like a million euro and this is just for starters. He excels in colour, captures unique beauty of fashion. I have seen him at work in the studio on several occasions. His works is usually striking combination of human beauty and vibrant palette. Imagine then my surprise when I have entered Lower Galleries at St James Cavalier and found myself surrounded by a series of black and white portraits.
Each panel was divided into 5 smaller images of the same person, shown from different sides. People with no make-up, with widely flowing hair, like they have ran into the studio a minute before and had no time to prepare themselves. Ordinary people, not models. Friends and perhaps relatives even.
But that’s not all. On each panel, two upper images were shadows (silhouettes shot against the background) three lower images formed a classical profile (left-center-right) composition. Basic studio work, probably the first exercise every photography student does when they start their practice.
To the mix, Kevin had thrown his own definition of what portraiture was and quotes from the greatest minds that ever stood behind the lens. Everything printed simply on white pages and hanged neatly on the walls.
It was a very strange experience to stand there in front of those people on the photos. You began to wonder who they were and what their story was. I am not sure if that was intended but it reminded me of police mug shots practice. Before I knew my mind started to come up with stories of crime and passion and old detective intrigues. The old times of femme fatales and Chandler characters.
The black and white photography really helped to bring that nostalgic aspect in my eyes. It is timeless; it takes you back to the beginning of the medium, to the golden era of Magnum agency, where cameras were bulky and rare but they were opening a world of exciting adventures and possibilities. Not like today where people have a phone that is smarter than they are and the only excitement you are offered is to see what your friends had for lunch (via Instagram). I am of course exaggerating but you get my point.
I am really grateful to Kevin for that experiment with old school photography. It gave me a much needed creative stimulation and renewed my faith in local photographic exhibitions.
I am illustrating this entry with my shots from the night; I have kept to the documentary tradition and shot in monochrome with 50 mm lens and 400 ISO (if you are not familiar with photography, this will be the closest I could get to the old classic Leicas).
You can follow Kevin Casha http://kevincasha.com
or you can learn more about his exhibition on his blog
Thanks for reading.
Wow, I haven’t been expecting that! My post about Kevin’s exhibition got a special feature in a MIPP newsletter in December. MIPP (Malta Institute of Professional Photography) is a photographic association of which I am a junior member. It took two whole pages of text and photos. I have attached some screenshots, but you can also access this newsletter as a PDF under this address:
If anybody feels like joining MIPP, please have a look at:
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I don’t want to sound pompous, but I am so proud of myself. To be very honest, for a long time I have been secretly thinking of writing some photography related articles, perhaps I will have now an incentive to gather my courage and publish some, even if on my other blog (http://ontestinggrounds.wordpress.com/). Its not like I know everything, but I have discovered some pieces and bits of knowledge and I had this urge to share. Now I think I even should!
Thank you MIPP guys. I truly love you. Even, if you have to put up with my sarcastic sense of humour and my one-track-minded love for photojournalism and combat photography!