In his latest book Alpha and Omega, photographer David Kasnic turns his lens on a regional community church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and presents striking portraits of the local neighbourhood. The Chicago-based photographer spent his time getting to know the local families, engaging in local church practices, and asking his sitters how they would want to be photographed. It is this thoughtful approach that renders Alpha and Omega a unique insight into an otherwise tightly-knit community.
David’s interest in photography was sparked in high school and, as the years went by, he began to focus his craft on portraiture, capturing the quirks and eccentricities of intriguing characters. In 2016, French newspaper Libération commissioned David to document Milwaukee’s social divisions. His photographs were then to be featured in a special issue titled Obama Blues. “I was brought to a small storefront church, Alpha and Omega Ministries, where I met some terrific people. The pastor, Martha Freeman, invited me to come back the next week to continue photographing outside of the perimeters of the commission. We formed a strong connection and I’ve kept going back ever since,” David tells It’s Nice That.
Alpha and Omega is populated by earnest and sincere shots of the local residents, whether it be a tattooed boy, a mother with her young son or an elderly man dynamically raising his hand in the air. David describes his photographs as collaborations and says, “each person brings a performance of themselves that they’d like to have represented in a photograph and I attempt to curate that into the most believable picture. After each encounter I bring small prints back, listen to thoughts and feedback, and we try again.” Instead of projecting his own narratives onto his sitters, David’s democratic mindset allows for an honest and authentic representation of the local Milwaukee community.
“I hate to think of this work as a ‘series’ because I consider many of the people from and around Alpha and Omega Ministries to be family. They came to my wedding, I’ve been to a lot of their homes and family events – so I really hate to call it that. There is the obvious though, that I am a photographer, making pictures in a small church, on a street, in a community that is not mine. I’m doing this with a purpose — so in that sense I will always be an outsider,” the photographer says. Yet, David’s personal relationship with and emotional investment in the residents around Alpha and Omega Ministries translates in his photographs; the close connection between photographer and sitter means that Alpha and Omega is made up of strong, dynamic characters with distinct personalities that shine through the images.
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