“One should not judge a book by its cover, but one should also not forget the cover is what draws you in, or repels you away.” – Unknown
Extreme, originating from the Latin word extremus, meaning outermost or utmost; and persona, originating from Latin of the same spelling, meaning a theatrical mask. Kevin Washington, a documentary photographer, attempts to explore the idea of the outward, visual representation of persona, but with an extreme twist. Over the millennia, Man has honed the instinct and skill of sizing up prey and predator alike. This allows us to assess a situation with all its variables, and make a potentially life preserving decision within seconds. Although as a species we are now on top of the food chain, this instinct is still a part of who we are.
Washington, through his powerful, in-your-face portraits forces us to not only reexamine our fight or flight reactions to the extreme, but he also forces us to self reflect on what is actually extreme when it comes to someone else’s appearance. Is extreme and heavily tattooed man? Is it a woman with excessive makeup? A woman who only dresses in black? Or is it a female gun enthusiast? Perhaps the concept of extreme is relative to the person observing it. Washington’s extreme portraits are as much a self-examination into our psyches as it is on our biased observations of the extreme. Through his tightly cropped images with their deeply saturated colors giving them an almost make-believe quality, we are drawn into his world of extreme personas. It is at this point we start to judge what we see. Don’t be ashamed of this. It’s in our nature. After viewing these portraits of people that are on the fringe of normalcy, what kind of opinions do you form about the subjects? Are they negative? Positive? Indifferent? Would your opinion change if you found out that just like its Latin meaning, the Extreme Persona portraits in this collection were just masks covering up someone very different than they appear? Now that is a question to ponder.