BEYOND BORDERS – Perspectives on migration

BEYOND BORDERS – Perspectives on migration

A project by Kevin Casha

In Malta, it is increasingly difficult to move away from the discourse on migration and integration. The island’s location, as one British writer once put it “the navel of the Mediterranean.” No one can deny that this “navel” is in the centre of a controversial maelstrom which, unfortunately, has become an endless issue with hot debate between various camps and factions.
It is a fact that Europe has an aging population and that a crisis scenario looms whereas not enough workers will be employed in European countries to sustain the straining financial requirements of pensions. However, most Europeans look at migrants only as a burden and most politicians, caught between their vote catching priorities, seem to be unable to legislate solidly and efficiently on this massive movement and displacement of humanity.

The Questionnaire

The Questionnaire

Who can blame a person for choosing to better one’s life? Are we not all born with at least the right of improving the life of ourselves and our loved ones? Who can stay in a country where the only choice is enslavement, disease, misery and, many times, death? All these thoughts and others kept churning around my brain and led me to try and explore the situation through a practical and hopefully unbiased manner that everyone can understand.

Setting up at MCVS. The exhibition will be touring various venues.

Setting up at MCVS. The exhibition will be touring various venues.

Setting Up at MCVS

Setting Up at MCVS

Beyond Borders is an attempt to look into the positive aspects of migration and avoid the dark, pessimistic narratives that the media very often dishes out. Naturally, my medium is photography so I wanted to use a genre of art that I am comfortable with. I also wanted to investigate the inner thoughts of the migrants’ stay on our island; how they arrived here; how they have been received; how they have made ends meet and how many of them have actually managed to become part of Maltese society. Moreover, I wanted to record their progress on the island as most of them are already doing their part in the local economy and towards society. In a world which is increasingly becoming globalised and multi-cultural, the sooner that societies manage to integrate migrants is vital for the benefit of all current and future generations. For sure, every race, nation and religion has its fanatics and these will never unfortunately disappear however, let us not forget the many examples were integration of migrants has been successful…. What about the Indian community in Britain; what about the Turks in Germany; what about America – a country whose strength is through its diversity?

Beyond Borders

Beyond Borders

Tackling this project has also made me realise my own weaknesses, perhaps my prejudice, and my failure to see the “other side of the coin.” I feel that he journey has made me a better man, has shown me that it is only through sincere communication and dialogue that bridges are built. Integration is definitely not a one-way issue but an issue in which all sides need to do their part. Building bridges that aid integration will safeguard host countries from forcing migrants into isolation or “ghettoes” which can only eventually flare up.

Some of the participants in Beyond Borders

Some of the participants in Beyond Borders

It is also the responsible, yet understandably difficult job of those who are in power to identify and implement legislation which addresses these huge problems – without being influenced by commercial gain, greed and inhumanity.

logos jpg

Note:
I would like to thank two persons who have made this project possible, namely Alec Douglas and Daniel Vassallo, both from Cross Culture International. Without their ongoing help, this project would have never materialised. Naturally, I must thank all the contributing sponsors and, most of all, the persons who accepted to be interviewed and be part of “Beyond Borders.”
Their importance necessitates that I mention each and everyone by their name:

ENDELEY KONBOYE
JOSEPH JNR. ONONUJU
LAURA COPPINI
DANIELLE VAN ROOYEN
DOUNIA BORG
KATINA MLADENOVA
KODES SBOUI
SABRINA WERNER
ADAM GISMALLA
GISELLA ORSINI
MARYGRACE CANNAO
MATIFADZA NYAMUKAPA
NATHAN BVUMBURAH
SAMPSON YEBOAH
STEPHEN EGBO
UMAYMA ELAMIN
VANJA VAJAGIC
AWELAGA ASEBA (ZSIXTEEN AWLAGA)

Beyond Borders

To view the interviews and the Questionnaire linked to this project see:

BEYOND BORDERS – The storytelling…

The Fine Art photography of Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge

I recently had the opportunity to meet talented South African photographer Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge at Le Meridien Hotel in St. Julian’s, where she is holding her photographic exhibition. “Lacey & Lace” is a collection of works, exquisitely printed and framed in large format having a subject that revolves around the delicate structure and texture of lace and feminine beauty. In this exhibition, Nadette has actually tackled two separate genres of photography and managed to cleverly link and combine them together. Nadette is essentially a highly skilled fashion photographer with an impressive portfolio of works behind her. The work in Lacey & Lace is paired in ‘sets’ of two: a beauty female very fashionable portrait and a studied still life that complements the same portrait. Nadette’s photography background is in conventional film and the discipline that years of film photography has instilled in her is evident; her work is planned, studied and skilfully executed clearly demonstrating her schooling and wide experience in the photography medium.

© Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge

© Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge

© Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge

© Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge

Following is Nadette’s concept:

Lacey & Lace the idea behind it
The concept for this exhibition was born from my love of lace and my passion for beauty and stills photography. I wanted to do something that merged the two and so the idea came about to work on 18 pieces accentuating lace as the common theme throughout the images, incorporating a DPS (double-page spread) approach. From my years of shooting for magazines, I found that I instinctively visualized my imagery in a double page layout – so I wanted to echo that idea in my exhibition by creating images in a 2-part story.
I photographed 9 beauty portraits each exploring a different theme and flavour, and then expanded the concepts further by shooting a complementary still for each model. The images will be viewed in pairs, but can still exist as pieces in their own right.
From the onset, my aim was to create images that were extremely textured and layered. As lace is the common thread, I explored the concept by integrating lace in the styling aspects of the subject matter, and then layering the images digitally afterwards by incorporating scanned-in pieces of lace. It is my hope that the photographed lace and scanned lace are not obviously differentiated from one other, but viewed blended to create the layered effect.
The final pieces are printed on canvas at 80 x 120cm each, to fully appreciate the layered textures.
Each beauty portrait is titled by incorporating the girls name Lacey, and each complementary still using the word Lace.

Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge Email: nadettephoto@melita.com Mobile: 9935 6592

© blog – KEVIN CASHA

© Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge

© Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge

© Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge

© Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge

THE PERILS OF INTERNET

The Perils of internet….

The recent bad experience of one of my students made me reflect on problems when buying from the internet. Naturally, there are bargains to be had and many reputable buyers and, furthermore, at times we are forced to buy from internet as some products are not readily available from local distributors. Yet, I think we need to be aware of a few pointers which I would like to mention here when making online purchases:

• You are not seeing the product you are buying at point of purchase. This introduces the risk of being sold a damaged, shop-soiled or even counterfeit item, and the risk of damage during transit due to insufficient packing, rough handling or similar. Beware of deals that seem too good to be true – sometimes that cheap battery, lens or camera case will prove very expensive in the end.

• Products sold on EU websites are not necessarily tax-paid in the EU. This exposes you to the risk of having to pay an extra 5.1% duty and 18% VAT on the item you purchase upon clearance through Malta customs.

• Most manufacturers have different warranty schemes for world regions. A product marketed by a manufacturer for sale in the Far East or US is not normally covered by their EU-wide warranty. Internet sites are not obliged to specify where they buy their products from and don’t often specify whether the product they are selling is covered by the manufacturer’s EU warrenty scheme or not.

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• Furthermore, claiming a repair or replacement under warranty requires a document, showing signature and stamp of the seller together with the serial number of the equipment being claimed and the date of sale. You don’t normally get this document when purchasing camera equipment on the internet unless you specifically ask for it. Local distributors in Malta will require this document to get reimbursed by the manufacturer for any warranty claim they honour, so it is understandable for them to insist on an original, signed document of sale as part of your warranty claim.

• Counterfeit goods. This is a growing problem globally. The selling of high cost counterfeit goods on the internet can be a costly exercise. Never buy cut price big name brands unless you are confident of the outlets authenticity. Rogue websites. As well as counterfeit goods there are criminal gangs out there who produce web sites which look like reputable retailers which are in fact designed to steal your payment details and or identity. They look just like the real thing and are often sites you have used before. Always make sure you type in the address yourself and never follow links from emails or even other web sites.

Naturally, I have researched the above information and I hope that this will enable you to better evaluate circumstances when you contemplate your next purchase. Good luck!

Update – Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue International Photography Competition & Exhibition

During the recent CHOGM events, the OUT OF THE BLUE PHOTOGRAPHY exhibition was inaugurated at the MarItime Museum in Vittoriosa by HRH Prince Charles. The opening brought to fruition the work of many months which included the preparation of rules, launching and promotion, the judging, preparation of exhibition boards and the collating of a publication. All this was a great opportunity to showcase the value and importance of our blue planet and raise awareness around all Commonwealth countries on the value of our seas. A vast area of our global ocean lies within the jurisdiction of Commonwealth countries. More than half of Commonwealth countries are islands, to whom ocean matters are of vital importance.

 HRH Prince Charles delivering his opening speech

HRH Prince Charles delivering his opening speech

Through the work of Kevin Casha, MIPP President, Malta had a substantial entry and local photographers left an excellent impression with the international judges. Two MIPP members had their works amongst the finalists: Joe P. Smith and Nick D’Ancona’s images are also exhibited in the Maritime exhibition. Furthermore, other work, mainly coming from the photographic section of Atlam Subacqua Club, in Malta, was close to making it to the final selection. The competition’s overall winner was Ms Ashley Wee, from Canada with a photograph of a sea turtle taken in the Bahamas. Ms Wee attended the exhibition’s inauguration.

MIPP President Kevin Casha together with the overall winner, Ms Ashley Wee

MIPP President Kevin Casha together with the overall winner, Ms Ashley Wee

The Out of the Blue competition, exhibition and book were made possible by the partnering organisations which were The Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit, The Royal Commonwealth Society, National Geographic Pristine Seas, the CHOGM Taskforce and the Malta Institute of Professional Photography. Kevin Casha himself was instrumental for the success of this event as he was not only one of the Judges but also Picture Editor and Exhibition Coordinator. The exhibition is open to the general public from the 28th November to the 11th of December 2015.

Protecting our seas …

Protecting our seas…

Recently, I was honoured by being invited to be part of the selection panel for the OUT OF THE BLUE Prince of Wales’ Commonwealth Environmental Photography Awards. The competition, held under the auspices of HRH the Prince of Wales, aimed at encouraging Commonwealth Citizens to showcase the beauty and bounty of oceans and marine environments.

The judges’ task was to select the winners of each competition category as well as the images which have been eventually exhibited in Malta during the November Commonwealth CHOGM event. The judging panel consisted of a further three judges coming mainly from environmental backgrounds. All the judges’ CV’s are highly impressive and, apart from their vast experience, are all photographers in their own right. Besides myself, the group consisted of Terence Dormer, a diver and founder of the British Sub Aqua club; Hanli Prinsloo – multiple South African free diving record holder and founder of the I AM WATER Ocean Conservation project; and Daniel Beltra – a Spanish born photographer working from Seattle who specialises in aerial environmental photography.

The publication which accompanies the exhibition in Malta.

The publication which accompanies the exhibition in Malta.

The judging, held at the prestigious St James Palace in London, was not an easy task, with nearly 900 entries coming from all ends of the Commonwealth. The works were under different themes and categories with one category for under 18 participants as well as a Mobile Phone category. This was also another opportunity for me to learn more about selection processes and the organization of judging panels. Naturally the work, coming from so many different areas of the commonwealth as well as the cultural diversity of the participants, made for different levels and standards of entries – there were the obviously top notch images coming from professional photographers and then entries from hobbyists and youths. It made for a very intriguing mix of images. I could not help notice that some of the work was of the documentary side – just recording a scene or a holiday snapshot – yet other images had an important message as well as an obvious thematic involvement by the photographer. It was also curious that the weakest section was the mobile category. With the use and proliferation of mobile phones, I would have expected much stronger images in this section.

From a personal point, it was also a pleasure that recent efforts of myself and the MIPP to work with Atlam sub aqua club photographers are paying off. I successfully encouraged them to put in their impressive work for this competition. In fact, the Malta entry was noticeable and a good number of works left a good impression on the experienced judging panel.

© Kevin Casha

DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY – A PUBLISHER’S PARADISE OR AN OPPORTUNITY FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS?

It is useless denying it – digital technology has turned totally into a publisher’s paradise, or has it? Technology has made photography accessible to a much wider swathe of the general public. Most of this new, snap happy horde are part timers – they already have full time jobs and for them photography is a hobby, a pastime, nothing really too serious. So this vast proliferation of photographers has made available to publishers an ever evolving stock of free images and, consequentially made the sale of images by professional photographers so much more difficult.

An image which can easily fit into editorial. © Kevin Casha

An image which can easily fit into editorial.
© Kevin Casha

The publishing industry is aware that there are loads of good photographers who are ready to freely give their images for publication – just for the sake of seeing their photographs in print. This is a fact of life and cannot be reversed back. Pros just need to accept it, but then digital media and the internet revolution have also made it easier for one to proliferate images and make one’s work known. The first thing a photographer earning his livelihood from the business needs to determine is whether it is to one’s advantage to pass on images for free and thus join the bandwagon. Today, one does not need to fork out money for physical print portfolios or lose time and effort going to meetings. Internet has made it possible to market one’s work from the comfort of one’s laptop. It is up to each photographer to decide whether to start making his work known around the world or whether to remain a non-entity, stay out of business completely and satisfy oneself with the ‘likes’ on Facebook! Yes, the decision is a harsh one to accept for photographers who have been used to getting paid for their work – but today it is a fact of life and the sooner one accepts it, the better.

So how does one try to turn the situation to one’s advantage and tap the valid possibilities that are out there? Like in everything else, it boils down to hard work – nothing comes easy yet some photographers have turned the situation in their favour. One must not forget that although photographers have increased in a big way, the world wide web has also enabled us to enormously proliferate our client base. Images put online and published are now being seen all over the world. Who would before have seen one’s images in Africa, in Alaska or in China? If one trawls around the internet, one is bound to find up and coming young photographers who have managed to capture attention and, subsequently, paid work.

Sounds difficult? Yes, for sure with so many good photographers around. It is not easy to get noticed in such a competitive field. But is it really as inacessible as it seems or are we not making enough effort to tap this market? There are hundreds of online and conventionally printed publications needing images from all genres of photography. Publishers are all the time looking for fresh and engaging work which will enhance their content. One needs to get them to see one’s work.
Naturally, the main beneficial thing when one’s work is published or seen online is that your credited work is seen by a wide audience. There are so many opportunities out there to have one’s work published. It’s just a question of being organized and being industrious.

There are some things which need to be noted: Most publishers will require releases if you have recognizable persons in the images. This, as we all now adds another complication. Yet when one is aware it should not be such a great problem to obtain releases particularly for personal work in which one has control over the subjects. Just prepare releases for all types of photographs, even carrying them with you whilst shooting. Also one can use blur or movement to obscure recognition. Being aware of the copyright and data protection laws of your country is also vital. Furthermore, try and study the publications which would mostly welcome your style or genre of photography and concentrate your efforts on them. Fit your images to the publication.

A generic image typical of magazine potential. © Kevin Casha

A generic image typical of magazine potential. © Kevin Casha

There lies also the possibility of ‘barter.’ Make efforts to exchange your work for free advertorial space or any other product or service that is of use to you. This will be more doable in one’s own country as one would, most probably, know the publishers on a personal basis. It is not a disgrace to barter work – the world was, and still is, based on barter – be it with goods, services or money. One needs to be aware of retaining copyright of one’s images after they have been published. Most publishers recognize this and have no objection, but be aware of a few companies and individuals who are out to take advantage. Use your ready stock photography avoiding to go into expense to shoot purposely for publications. Make sure to read the submission guidelines in detail – remember that most editors will have hundreds of submissions to view and things such as sizing your images or naming them wrongly will most certainly get your work discarded right away. One other factor to remember is not to put up the images you intend to send to publications on Facebook -use other photographs for this purpose – as publishers do not like to use images which are already out there.

One last recommendation: do not be disheartened when publishers do not respond or give you feedback. The process is not quick and easy and most of the times it takes long to strike gold. The important thing is to be patient and persistent. If your work is good, it is bound to be eventually noticed and rewarded. So get off your backside and bring your work to the notice of the world!

© Kevin Casha 2015

COMMUNICATION AND THE SIMPLE PLEASURES OF LIFE….

COMMUNICATION AND THE SIMPLE PLEASURES OF LIFE….

I have recently returned from Inner Mongolia, in China. I was representing Malta in the 1st Bairin Left Banner Photographic Season. Needless to say, it was an unforgettable experience. Being so far away from my surroundings in little Malta, the trip and the stay made me reflect.

The inauguration of Bairin Left Banner Photography Season

The inauguration of Bairin Left Banner Photography Season

Travelling to the place was one of my most strenuous trips to date – it took nearly two days of travel going there and a further two days coming back, each way involving three flights and countless bus journeys! Yet it was well worth it! Together with other international photographers and personalities, such as the FIAP vice president, we were based in Bairin Left Banner, in Chifeng City, at an excellent and modern hotel, Jing Du hotel. I actually got to know that we were the first Europeans staying at the hotel! In fact, everyone wanted to take pictures with us – something which I must say, I did not mind in the least. It was a fantastic event with a grand opening in the main culture centre of the City. Coupled with this event was the inauguration of a high level international photographic exhibition.

A typical pastoral scene in Inner Mongolia

A typical pastoral scene in Inner Mongolia

Yet, what impressed me most during my stay was the
will for people to communicate and live together in harmony. My only Chinese is limited to ‘Good morning’, ‘thank you’ and ‘Kampei!’ (Cheers!) and the Chinese command of English is rather similar to my abysmal skills in the Chinese language. So it was not easy to make each other understood. Still, I only required to smile at totally unknown people, who unhesitatingly smiled back and welcomed me, a total stranger, not only into their houses, but also into their hearts.

Reminiscent of Van Gogh

Reminiscent of Van Gogh

The hospitality we were shown was really without any bounds. Just as an example, during one instance, I joked that I had not seen the traditional, furry cows (Yaks) that Mongolia is known for – so, lo and behold – the next day we were taken to a place where two Yaks and countless wild horses were grazing contentedly. I was later told that the area we were in did not have any Yaks but our hosts managed to bring two examples from some far off place in order to please us! This was the limits they went to so that their guests were happy.

Traditional Folk Dancers

Traditional Folk Dancers

It was a pleasant feeling when I witnessed countless scores of townspeople enjoying themselves with morning exercises (such as Tai Chi) and games (such as ‘shuttlecock’ and tennis). They daily congregate in the squares not only to keep fit but also to communicate with each other. Their pastimes are old fashioned yet geared towards keeping them in touch with their fellow beings – simply playing cards in the streets or singing together in choirs. How we have lost all these communication skills in the West! We are so hell bent on commercialism, on earning not only a living – but earning more and more in our greedy race for having all the commodities that we can dream of – that we seem to have lost our way. We do not even make the effort to talk to each other anymore without using modern, insensitive technology. In this day of stellar communication many of us are just lost, wandering souls with very little real human contact – living in our own little bubbles.

An uncomplicated folk

An uncomplicated folk

Switching to the photography side, I can add that the weather was kind and that I was pleased to be able to cut myself off from my everyday life in Malta.

Dusk in Inner Mongolia

Dusk in Inner Mongolia

A Buddhist temple

A Buddhist temple

Deer on the skyline

Deer on the skyline

It was exhilerating to lose myself in the Prairies, the mountains and the sunflower fields – so reminiscent of one of my favourite artists – Van Gogh. I just hope that I did not day dream too much and that the images I brought back of the place does justice to such an enchanting segment of the world.

Sunflowers and Sunlight - a perfect combination

Sunflowers and Sunlight – a perfect combination

“Kampei!”

Kevin Casha

KITTY CHOU – The Purist photographer

Kitty Chou was born and raised in Hong Kong in 1961. She is the fifth of six sisters.

Although outwardly shy and reserved, when talking about photography, Kitty immediately lights up. The passion shines through her eyes and a transformation comes over her when she meets people who are seriously interested in discussing her photography. Like most persons taking up photography, Kitty initially tried her hand at a number of diverse photographic genres, but she has always been fascinated and drawn to people and society. Like most photojournalists, Kitty has a natural knack of communicating and she loves engaging with people. Despite the human element features in a lot of her everyday photographs, there is, ironically, a conspicuous absence of persons in most of her Fine Art exhibition work. Her work is imbued with classicism although most of her fine art imagery borders on abstract and semi abstract subjects.

© Kitty Chou

Portrait without a Face no.2

Through her own admission, Kitty is an extremely curious person and one realizes that this characteristic filters through her work. Most of her Fine Art work invites the viewer to first of all, engage aesthetically, then to delve deeper into what the images can evoke. Kitty’s work is at times mysterious and leaves a substantial part to the interpretation of each viewer: she is not one who spoon feeds the viewer.
After attending primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong, she went to the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania, United States, graduating in Business Administration in 1982. Kitty was always keen to take what would be termed snaps or documentary images. She was interested in preserving the memory of a fast disappearing lifestyle with the development of the society, especially the one in Hong Kong. She was further inspired when she saw an exhibition of Henri Cartier Bresson at MOMA in New York while she was in university. Bresson’s work not only impressed her but set her reflecting on photography.

© Kitty Chou

An interesting view of a mundane subject

Her first camera was a Minolta analog model. Like a lot of photography enthusiasts, she also developed her own films. After University, she seemingly drifted away from photography only to take it up in earnest again in 2002, buying a compact, point and shoot, two megapixel Casio digital camera. Kitty is mainly self taught and does not put much store in what cameras and equipment she employs – for her, the camera is just a means to an end and the importance of her photography is encompassed through perception, subject framing and aesthetic composition. She recalls her early days when many people she encountered would be asking her what type of camera she uses – as if the camera makes you a better or worse photographer! Many tended to be biased and look down at her photography due to her not sporting the latest “professional” camera model! This reminds me of a dear departed friend and great photographer, David Facey who, when once asked as to what type of camera he uses, he replied: “One of those little black ones!”

© Kitty Chou

The exhibition venue – the Natural History Museum, Mdina, Malta

Kitty’s first exhibition, in 2011, at the New York School of Interior Design, was urged by her professor, who seeing her work, encouraged her to exhibit at the school gallery. She entitled her exhibition “The Accidental Photographer: Line, Colour and Perspective.” The response to her work was so positive and encouraging that Kitty felt that exhibiting and showing her work was the way to go. This is one of the factors which continue to encourage her to exhibit as she particularly enjoys the feedback of her audience.

 

A year later, Kitty conducted a talk with slide show, as well actual prints at the Asia Society in Hong Kong. Ben Brown, a gallery owner, was invited to attend the talk by the forum moderator. The gallerist was intrigued by Kitty’s work and expressed interests in working together. Less than six months after that initial contact, Kitty had a solo show in their Hong Kong gallery.

She followed this exhibition by taking part in a Hong Kong collective exhibition during 2013. This was held at Duddell’s , a very up market restaurant and gallery in Hong Kong. This exhibition merits particular mention due to the fact that iconic Chinese artist, Ai Wei Wei, who was under house arrest then, was the curator. In 2014, another milestone followed for Kitty when car manufacturers Rolls Royce, converting their showroom into a pop-up art gallery, hosted Kitty’s work as their first Art Series in Asia.

© Kitty Chou

Kitty’s keen sense of light and texture

Ironically, there was a time when Kitty refused to go and see other photographic exhibitions as she felt that her work would be influenced and lose its distinct, personal character. Yet, today she has reversed that, mainly because she is confident enough about her work. These last years, she feels unshackled and free to do her ‘own thing’ and not be unduly influenced by what people say.
Kitty does not use any supplementary lighting in her images, preferring to keep her work as simple and true as possible. Her main ally is natural light. In fact, her style and work resemble more the photojournalistic or ‘street’ photographer. She does not manipulate, arrange or set up her images – her process is one of keen seeing and intelligent selection, cropping only in the camera and not in post process,maintaining that, if this is done, her images would lose or stray away from their initial purpose and concept. For this same purpose, even her digital editing is kept to a minimum – just some minor colour correction and brightness and contrast levels. Apart from Cartier Bresson, who remains forever one of Kitty’s inspirations, other photographers she admires are Horst P. Horst and Herb Ritts. She is particularly attracted to the more vintage photographers due to their studied composition and intelligent perception. This is actually interesting as in fact, although a large part of her work ends up being abstract and semi abstract, Kitty’s work is always imbued with classical inference.
She has now been working totally with the digital medium, due to its convenience and wide creative possibilities, printing her Fine Art exhibition work on high end special art paper. Kitty is increasingly looking to explore subjects which have a meaning to her and is interested in producing more work that possibly can have a social concept. Kitty is also looking at future challenges, and a project that is slowly taking birth is the production of a book on her photography.
Finally, I asked her how she would describe herself, a fine art photographer, or perhaps a photojournalist. She promptly replied that she really does not feel boxed to any particular type of photography but that photography has gradually just become an integral part of her lifestyle and is one of the main purposes and driving forces of her life.

Kitty today is married and has one son. She commutes regularly between New York, Paris, and her own Hong Kong.

© Kevin Casha, 2015
www.kevincasha.com

Note: Kitty Chou will be exhibiting her latest work in Malta at the Natural History Museum in Mdina between the 20th of May till the 7th of June, 2015. The exhibition is called “Cotidie The Magic of the Everyday.”

http://www.nysid.edu/news-events/events/kitty-chou-exhibition

http://duddells.co/venue/en/

The Gentle Sex and Photogaphy

This time round, I wanted to share with you some personal thoughts. Last year, both top Malta Institute of Professional Photography’s competitions, namely the Photographer of the Year and the International Online Competition, were won by the gentler sex. Furthermore, four of the Institute’s members gaining Qualifications, (from a total of six panels), were also women! Was this a coincidence? I do not really think so and in fact I have long been feeling the growth and opportunity that women photographers have gained partly through Digital photography.

Fifteen years back, I distinctly remember the extremely low number of females who would apply to learn photography during my courses – they would invariably be outnumbered ten to one by the males! Yet, now the boot seems to have shifted to the other foot. Take the clear example of my MCAST Higher National Diploma Photography first year Class which consists of seven girls and one boy! Even the MIPP membership seems to be steadily increasing its female membership. So what are the reasons of this evident increase in women photography practitioners in what was, previously, rather a male dominated profession?


I feel that the main factor behind this is the facility that digital technology has undoubtedly given us. The barriers have surely been lowered. Through my previous experience, most females have seemingly shied away from technical aspects so, for most of them, it was rather daunting to get to grips with complicated equipment, f-stops and tricky photographic techniques. It is not because they are not capable of surmounting these obstacles but I feel that their temperament prefers concentrating on other things. Have you ever really met a girl who is a ‘techie’ or fixated with photographic equipment and technology? One in a million, whilst on the other hand, many males are actually into photography because they are gadget freaks and love technique.

Although I do not think that this is scientifically proven, this does seem to be a distinct trend between the two sexes. Thus, and again this is only my view coming from years of practical experience, when digital (and the camera monitor) nudged out conventional photography, females now do not really need any more to concentrate so much on technique but have plunged fully into the art of photography and creativity. Again, one can now feel another distinct trend – female photographers seem to be steaming ahead into the forefront when it comes to conceptual photography and many times, seem to be leaving males lagging behind.
I do feel that both sexes can learn from each other. How fantastic would it be that photographers who are obsessed with technique would start adding context and message in their photographs and how ideal would it be if those employing context and message could supplement their work with the right technique and quality? I feel that this is another benefit, albeit not very recognized, that Digital photography has granted us. It has got everyone in ‘on the act’ and this undoubtedly gives photographic art a much wider breadth and dimension.


So males beware – we all need to further improve our game if we are to provide an adequate challenge to the fairer sex!

© Kevin Casha

PHOTOGRAPHY TUITION – a new jungle?

Way back in 1992, when I originally started doing my courses in photography, I never realised how these same courses would evolve into what today I consider as my main job and passion. Although some courses and tuition were already being done by the only, at that time, organized photography group on the island, it was really unheard of for a person to teach photography in Malta as a freelancer!

How dare someone teach the profession and enable others to become better photographers! How dare someone deprive already working photographers of their livelihood by helping the ‘competition?’ What audacity for someone to facilitate the path of other ‘wannabe’ photographers towards building a business or a career in photography?? As if anyone who is in any profession has any God given right to stop anyone else from taking the same route that he or she, as a beginner, had first undertaken! Do you know of anyone who was born a photographer right away in his cot! Had all these short sighted detractors forgotten their humble beginnings?

Photography_Courses_Malta_Fast_Track

Photography_Courses_Malta_Fast_Track

Yes, all these accusations were leveled at me when I took the plunge and started teaching. Today, most of my critics are belatedly trying to do what I did years ago: yes – teach. I have always advocated that learning is important and I have eternally been in favour of a free market. Anyone who is capable and passionate enough has all my full support. Yet, currently, I cannot but cringe at the way that matters are shaping up. It really seems that everyone now is trying to teach photography and, although there are various persons capable of doing this in the right manner, there are a host of others who are just jumping in without any skills or background. Recent years have thrown up a spate of complaints from persons who are in some way being ‘duped’ into paying for photography tuition and then finding out that they are really learning very little or, worse still, getting the wrong information or guidance. There are even cases where courses where just terminated midway through their schedule without the students being refunded! Yes, unfortunately it is becoming a jungle and there is little one can do but attempt to educate the students BEFORE they go out and book courses blindly.

Photography_Courses_Malta_Fast_Track

Photography_Courses_Malta_Fast_Track

The answer boils down to common sense and, first and foremost, one needs to realize that a skilled photographer does not always make a good tutor. A good tutor needs to be organized, needs to know how to deliver and share his knowledge, and needs to keep abreast and on top of his game. Taking good pictures and being a professional in one’s work is necessary but a good teacher needs many other skills. With social groups and online marketing, it has become quite easy for anyone to create a course and diffuse it around the internet and attract students. Again, there is nothing wrong with that, it is a free country, but be aware, particularly of those who have no visible track record of teaching. A student can really pass through a nightmare experience. If you needed a doctor, would you go to anyone who advertises on social media? Would you blindly ask for a service from any company which pays for an advert in yellow pages or would you ask for referrals and recommendations? Do an exercise and look up photographers on Malta’s yellow pages – some of the claims that some advertisers publicize make you laugh (or cry, for that matter!) This is not just in photography, but in all other professions or service industries – it’s a sign of our times.
So how does one go about selecting the right course or the right tutor? In Malta it is rather easy. Just ask for recommendations, ask someone who has already been to the tutor that you are considering. There is no better advert than recommendation and word of mouth, particularly on a small island like ours, where everyone knows everyone else. Go for courses which are well structured and clearly map out what you are going to be taught and how it is going to be done. Look for professionalism in every detail.

So the next time that you are seriously thinking of going into learning photography, do yourself a favour, and research your tutor well. It will avoid you unsavoury experiences and a waste of time and money.

© Kevin Casha