Diversity can be defined in many different ways. What does it really mean to each one of us?
Diversity is a commitment to recognizing and appreciating the variety of characteristics that make people and communities unique. It also acts as a catalyst to creating and sustaining an atmosphere that promotes and celebrates individual and collective achievement. The principle concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means not only understanding that each individual is unique, but recognizing our individual differences. Differences can emerge from so many facets of society: they can be physical abilities, ideologies, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, looks, religious beliefs and a myriad of others. Diversity is all about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.
This ‘Diversity’ project, the third in an APS bank series, consists of a photographic exhibition, a book and the Bank’s 2018 calendar. This multi-pronged approach is ideal and aims to reach the general public through various media platforms and thus strive to create awareness. In fact, the publications remain forever in circulation and help to encourage further, continued debate and engagement with the subject. The road towards creating such, at times, controversial projects is long and it takes a concerted dedicated effort and preparation by everyone involved in order to, in the end, come up with work which is artistic, aesthetic, professional, engaging and, last but not least, creates healthy public debate.
A vital part of the whole exercise is the academic essay expertly written on the subject. This time round, Anthony Catania was selected. His inspirational writing outlines and explores the subject in a masterly, probing manner and perfectly complements the visual and spiritual aspect of this project. Anthony imbues his writing with the passion he nurtures for culture and art.
Choosing the participating photographers is never easy. One must look into various aspects before deciding. The quality of their work is naturally paramount, but dedication, ably handling deadlines, interpretation of subject, sensitivity and their overall passion and willingness to work are all values which need to be considered. In order to bring out the best in each one of them, it requires one to be sensitive to their needs and any problems encountered during the production of their work. It takes a critical mixture of psychology, cajoling, inspiring, ongoing encouragement and assessment of their projects.
The photographers chosen for this year’s oeuvre are all Maltese as, this time I felt that I should concentrate on the local perspective of diversity. Keith Ellul tackled the subject from the perspective of artists; how they work, what inspires them, their different techniques and what they are trying to convey to their viewers. Sita Azzopardi engaged herself with showing diversity through religious beliefs and spiritual practices. A hard task indeed as it is not easy to be given access to some places of worship. However, Sita’s sensitivity and amazing perseverance enabled her to finally come out with a deeply captivating body of work. Duncan Cauchi’s work looked at what perhaps can be termed as the ‘dual personality’ of most people – how they react and work in their workplace opposed to how they are in real life, during their free time or whilst engaging with their other passions. Steering away from the impression of what their main occupation is; one gets an informative insight into what these persons really aspire to. Ondre Camilleri Gaglione studies the manner in which photographers look at a given subject. Photographers were given the task of depicting diversity with a monochrome image and the resulting portrait of each one of them holding their work gives a fascinating insight into their characters and their way of looking at life. Finally, Richard Farrugia looked at how a location, a venue or an event changes through the context of time and season. The way his final images were composed and blended together gives the viewer an instant glimpse of the diverse issues highlighting the Maltese islands through a particular emphasis on its changing ecology and the way people and season affect its appearance.
The Diversity project further puts forward to the general public the work of all five photographers in the exhibition and the publication of the book. I augur that visitors to the exhibition and readers of the book are beneficially stimulated to view diversity from a wider perspective and be able to not only tolerate diversity but actually embrace it as one of the benefits of society.
Finally, I would like to sincerely thank the APS Bank management and staff for enabling this idea to materialize and for once again putting their trust in me. The Bank has always believed in making Maltese society aware of our heritage, societal and cultural issues and has for a long time been at the forefront of encouraging local art. The Bank’s belief in the medium of photography and the power of imagery is extremely encouraging not only for local artists but also to coax the general public to further appreciate and cherish the wide talent on our island.