Artist’s Statement – The Likeness Project
It is not easy for a person to live and breathe photography and to keep challenging and stimulating himself with his work. It is a hunger which needs to be satiated every day.
It is also a shocking awakening when an artist sometimes gets that sinking feeling that he has done it all wrong and his path has, perhaps, taken him nowhere he would currently like to be.
Making a living from professional photography has never been easy, particularly now, in this extremely competitive and saturated digital world. For me it has always been trying to find a balance between my commercial and my artistic work. My commercial stimulus has always been that paid work would subsidize my personal projects. I have always had to work hard to get results.
Recently I have been asking myself where I want to go from here. A career of over thirty years is not easy to handle and it seems to get harder to map out one’s journey.
Although a general practitioner, I am mostly known for my portrait and fashion photography, which used to rather satisfy and content me. But currently I have been tortured by doubts about this genre of photography. Is it all made up? Is it all fictitious? Have I really been creating images which show character, mood or a message? Searching deep in my soul and my work I can only come up with few images which fit these criteria.
This is where this exhibition, and its name, “The Likeness Project”, come in.
Why Likeness? In the early days of photography, portraits where actually termed as “Likenesses” and photographers toiled in order that in some way, compete and better the work of painters and their portraits. A “Likeness” rarely attempted to show anything more than a similarity and a record of the person.
Matters changed drastically as technology progressed and photographers, (as well as their subjects), strayed further and further away from the truth to create idealised or clichéd portraits of their sitters.
The more I think about my past work, the more I am inclined to revert back and return to the basics of photography – of trying to capture people in a truer and more realistic way – attempting as much as possible not to alter reality and just showing and conserving people’s real features, moods and characters.
The work in this collection consists of images which all have the human element as their subject. Images which are basically unaltered and which require and intrigue the viewer to look deeply and in detail at the subtle nuances of a portrait by comparing silhouettes, facial negatives and portraits simply shot with natural north light coming from a window – just as vintage studio portraiture was originally conducted in the early days of the medium.
My subjects were instructed not to apply any make up or physical enhancements, not to wear any jewellery or ornaments and where only given a plain black top to wear.
In this exhibition, the idea is to invite and encourage those viewers, who must not know the actual subjects, to write down their thoughts on such matters as what they consider the subject’s characteristics, mannerisms etc. to be. That way a debate can hopefully be entered into as to whether the portrait as we know it has been giving us the wrong impression of a person’s countenance and character. Perhaps hidden nuances about the subjects can be possibly borne out and give a deeper insight into our character than fictitious, unnatural, posed portraits.
The main manipulation I have done to the images is by turning them into monochrome to remove the distraction of colour and to also give them a timeless, retro feel.
Kevin Casha – The Likeness Project
St James Cavalier for Creativity, Valletta, Malta 2012