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

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:


Beyond Borders

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

BEYOND BORDERS – The storytelling…

The Likeness Project – Outcomes


My photography exhibition, The Likeness Project, has now closed for viewing. Still, I would like the idea’s provocation and the debate to carry on.

general view of the exhibition set up at St James Cavalier, Centre for Creativity

General view of the exhibition set up at St James Cavalier, Centre for Creativity

In fact, from the amount of comments and interest the work has generated, I have decided to soon post all comments on this blog. This will serve to evaluate the outcomes and reflection that came out from this concept.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all those who visited the exhibition and took time to write down their views. A big thanks also goes to the persons who kindly co-operated and accepted to be photographed for the project.

I have now posted below a few of the exhibits for those who for some reason or other did not manage to view it.

It is also with pleasure that I can announce I will now be exhibiting this project at the London Hilton in January 2013.

The debate goes on….








View also Vanadium Avenue blog –


The Likeness Project

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.

The Likeness Project

The Likeness Project

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

The Eye and the Mind

When photographing and posing people, there are three main variables that need to be taken into consideration: The light, the subject and the photographer.

To some photographers, this is not so obvious, particularly at the beginning. Have we perhaps stopped seeing with our eyes and seeing only what advertising and commercials subtly directs, and wants us, to see?

I meet so many hopefuls wishing they have this or that camera and this or that lens, thinking that high end equipment will make them great photographers. Alas it is not the case. Granted, top notch kit will make your life easier, and yes, for some genres of photography, like macro, sports, underwater, one does need particular equipment and gear. Yet, when one studies the history of photography, as well as great photographers, there is usually one thing in common which binds the majority of them – and that is that they all based their photography not on their equipment, but on their mind and vision.

In this day and age, with everybody rushing around, not unlike headless chickens, trying to keep up with everything, some of us are missing the forest for the trees. Is it not time to take stock and try and organize ourselves? Is it not time to think of our priorities and work towards them? Is it not time to perhaps review our progress to date and try and analyze how to improve our work and lifestyle?

Coming back to photography, and the three main variables, it is time for those taking up photography seriously to try and grasp and better understand the effects of light. One thing we have to acknowledge is that light is actually invisible. What the photographer sees is the effect of light on his subject. What the photographer tries to do is capture that light in the most suitable way that fits the subject.

We must really look at the light on our subjects and then adjust maybe our subject or our own position, to fit and mold to the light we have. Many “photographers” are not even looking at the way light is affecting their subject, at the transition between highlights and shadows. Look at your subjects and decide what is the main focus of your image and work towards lighting that part of the photograph and leaving the rest of the image in more subdued lighting (quite like a spot lit effect).  A lot of images are today spoilt with over lighting, particularly people pictures.

Look at what the great masters did in painting and you will see the way they “lit” up their subjects by knowing the direction and quality of light. Study the work of Rembrandt, Rubens, Caravaggio, Michelangelo. What better tutors could one wish for!!? The more we hear today that photographers are portraying themselves as “artists”, the more, alas, it seems they are not behaving like artists!

Technology has made it so easy to churn out an “image” that most are just not thinking and our brains and eyes have become sluggish and untrained.

We must study the history of art, we must be aware of the evolution of photography, we must keep in touch with the breakneck pace of photography’s technology, we need to know the rules before we attempt to break them, we need to network and view other photographers’ work, we need to introduce concepts and meaning in our imagery, we need to learn how to best direct and manage our subjects, we need to learn the classical before attempting the abstract, we need to keep our minds open and receptive to all forms of art. The list is endless. . .

Technology has given Photography to the masses and the masses have taken it on in a huge manner. It is now up to the masses to use their new found creative tool to the best of its ability and not to abuse and reduce it to mere gimmickry.

Let us all strive to learn more and more on this wonderful art.

Increasing our passion for photography is bound to increase the level and purpose of our images. The way forward is to never think you have arrived but to keep learning and discovering.

The Man and his Mirror


The Man and his Mirror by Kevin Casha

The mystery and magic of Antoine Giacomoni’s “Mirror Portraits”

It was fate which enabled me to meet Antoine Giacomoni. I had at one time been photographically involved in Corsica, visiting that magical place twice with a dear friend, colleague and brilliant Corsican photographer, Marcel Fortini. Me and Marcel are both similarly passionate about photography and “clicked” immediately when we hadfirst met each other through the Alliance Francaise, in Malta.

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