Photographer Interview: Thierry Casias

A graduate of  International Center of Photography’s General Studies certificate program, photographer Thierry Casias is one of the many talented folks I’ve met during the past two years at the ICP.  Originally trained in industrial design, I love the way Casias’ photographic “eye” is sensitive to light and the way it falls over the human form. Check out some of the beautiful images from his Quiet Men series in his interview.

From the series Quiet Men
Copyright Thierry Casias

Where are you and/or your family from?

I was born in Brooklyn and my family’s originally from Haiti. In fact, I spent a large part of my childhood in Haiti.

How has growing up biologically male amongst a family of mostly females affected your aesthetic perception of the world as a photographer?
It’s hard to say. Mostly because neither the female, nor the males I grew up with were typical of the stereotypes attributed to each gender. Haitian culture, like many Latin American cultures is matriarchal. I grew up with very strong vocal women and they were nurturers and well as providers.

From the series Quiet Men
Copyright Thierry Casias

The images in your series Quiet Men are just gorgeous and in the way you’ve photographed them I really notice physical details typically attributed to females (like stretch marks and long, curly eyelashes) both of which of course are inherently just human. Do you consider these to be portraits or a study on defining masculinity?
Thank you! Both in a way. As a whole, the project seeks to define masculinity but only for myself. They’re as much self-portraits as they are representations of the subjects. These details are incidental… Mostly I sought to show beauty and dignity in everyday men.

From the series Quiet Men
Copyright Thierry Casias

What was your approach with each subject? Did you hold conversations about how they personally define masculinity? Can you share some of their answers?
I chose for subjects men that I’m close to in some capacity or another. My process was to set up a list of questions. Some were general (“how do you define a man”?) while others were more personal, based on what I know of their personal histories. I recorded these conversations and used their answers in the voice overs of the video portraits. These were shot first, while the stills were shot shortly after. From the interview process I hoped to get my subject into a reflective mood and it also served to break the ice before shooting the videos and the stills.

From the series Quiet Men
Copyright Thierry Casias

You’re professionally trained in product/industrial design. How has those skills contributed to your photography work, if at all?
I’ve often been told that my work has a certain formal quality, especially in terms of composition and I think this comes largely from my formal training. I also tend to obsess over production processes and the technical aspects. That might be related as well. In the past I’ve tried my best to create two distinct worlds and to avoid letting my training as an industrial designer influence my work but as I mature as an artist I’ve decide to stop trying to create such defined boundaries, and to avoid getting stuck on labels.

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