The Hands (Part I)

Conceptual portrait photography The Hands

This series was created because I wanted to create the images that show deep emotions. When people said “I’m fine” or “I’m ok”and appeared to be fine and ok but they are really not fine or ok. 
I said it because I didn’t want others to worry about me or I simply didn’t know how to explain or express myself. I have been there and many have been there as well. 
This series is about expressing how it might look like to be anxious, depressed, stressed and worried etc from the inside. If you see the images and you find it resonate with you in any way, find someone you can trust and talk to them about what is troubling you. 

Statement of Intent:
This portrait series was created from 20 photo shoots with 20 selective models from different ethnicities in Europe with different skin tones. Each model was given the same outfit and the same instructions. The models were placed in a small, boxed and confined space. Metaphorically, it is the world we are living in. They were asked to think about the emotions such as stressed, depressed, worried, confused and anxious, and use their hands, arms and the face to express the emotions. They were given the opportunity in a place and time to freely express their own unique expressions. It’s to demonstrate individual human expression through different individual life experience and personality.

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“The Hands” #1 Model:Christine Aquilina This is one of the 20 images from the series “The Hands” which was accredited Associateship Qalification at MIPP (Malta Institute of Professional Photography)
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“The Hands” #2
Model:Jade Bartolo

I think it can be extremely difficult for some people to express feelings and emotions. This series is all about bringing the emotions and feelings up to the front, to be brave enough to be seen.
I remember I was like that, I wasn’t good at express myself both in words and expressions. I didn’t talk much, not even with people who were close to me, I kept everything to myself. The worse of all, I found myself often express myself wrong in front of people. It can be humiliating when people made fun of me, so it got worse, I wasn’t good or brave to talk about how I feel. Now I found myself is pretty good at it because I can talk about my feelings all day all night to people that I trust until they tired of me. It was a huge learning curve for me, it was a growth, a gradual process, it was a huge breakthrough. 

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“The Hands” #3
Model:Dragana Popovic

This image has a hidden meaning, it was chose for this reason. The light source is from the left side and she blocks the light with her hand and turns away from it. It can be interpreted as “she doesn’t want to be seen”, “she doesn’t feel worthy”. ( Here I am not talking about the model herself, the subject is a metaphor of a female. )
Or she refuses to know or accept the truth. Sometimes we blind ourselves so we don’t need to change or face the changing. 
Change is hard but as human, we are always seeking for changes.

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“The Hands” #4 
Model:Amber Debono

This series is called “The Hands” because I wanted the models to use their hands to express the emotions. It was very difficult to do and even more difficult when culling the images. I have purposely broke many traditional portrait rules. It was scary to do so but I’m glad I did. I wanted to challenge the judges and the viewers. I wanted to know, “do you understand me?” It’s a communication through images, in silents while the emotions appeared to be so loud.
There is an motion in this image and I love that.

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“The Hands” #5
Model:Kelsey May Connor 

I used to think silence and indifferent are the worse ways to communicate until I heard my previous neighbour shouting at her husband from the balcony. (ok, I’m joking. )
When there is a problem in your relationships, how often would you choose to tolerate in silence? Turn away from the problem? It’s not easy to communicate emotions and feeling once it’s all built up. I learned it’s important to learn to communicate even the emotion is subtle.⠀

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“The Hands” #6
Model:Kristina Critien

We need to remain hopeful even it seems like a dark age we are going through. 
“She faces the light, accepts what’s coming and remain hopeful.” That’s how I would describe this image. I believe everyone see an image differently and it’s always an interesting study.

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“The Hands” #7
Model:Claudia Aiel

It was hard to cull the 20 images because it’s such a tight theme. They were risking to be judged as a series of repetition. It turned out that they are not, each individual image has so much rich emotion in it with different expression. I believe confinement can push art to develop further. I wouldn’t know what to do without some kind of restraint when creating images. Art has infinite expression after all, there is no limit. And it is the artist’s job to find the concise elements to express her/his art.

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“The Hands” #8
Model:Martina Galea

This series took me 6 years to complete. I was going to send it to another photography institution abroad for the panel judge. But I wasn’t qualified to enter because they have a rule that the images must be taken with in 24 months. “What kind of rule is that?” I said to myself. How long did it take for Leonardo da Vinci to create “The Last Supper”? How long did it take for Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of The Sistine Chapel?

I believe the time spent should be accredited as a positive contribution to the art. Time helps the artist to form matured art. I had the idea but I wasn’t ready to form the series for some years, I had many doubts and fear. It took time to push through all that. 
Now I feel proud.

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“The Hands” #9
Model:Dahlia Mitrovic

What the emotion “anxiety” would look like?
Years ago, I was a person with huge amount of anxiety. I was constantly worry about every little things. So I know how it feels to have anxiety, it is a very dark place. 
I think it’s important to acknowledge the negative emotions. Even we can’t change it or solve it at that moment, acknowledge it, recognise it, talk about it, would be a good place to start the shift.

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“The Hands” #10
Model:Valerie Caruana

When I was shooting for this series, I put each and every model in a 3 walled boxed small space. The walls are made from polystyrene and I painted them black. It was done mainly for the lighting purpose, I wanted to create the dark, contrasty and moody look. Then the pandemic Covid-19 hit us, we got lock down in our own houses, it made me feel the connection of the lighting set up, it was more than just the lighting, it affected how the models felt. 
Everything is connected.