Stratis Kas is a photographer whose work practice follows simultaneously and consciously two main, yet contradictory, visual languages. On the one hand, by design, he recalls the grand auteur tradition that stretches all the way to Masters like Irving Penn and Steven Meisel. Contrary to this historically orientated mindset he insists on retaining the freshness of his digital native roots by embracing the spontaneous power of online iconography. Stratis Kas achieves iconic value that is relevant for today by being unafraid to immortalize cracks in perfection, celebrate wrongness and welcome mistakes.
At first glance, unburdened by guilt about voluptuousness, as a true lover of beauty should be, his luminous photographs are shamelessly sumptuous – lighting is superbly diffused, framing is heroically baroque, his choice of subject and context aestheticized in the most refined manner.
But, however potent this conjuring of academic competence might be, it’s not technical excellence that makes Stratis Kas’s photography so powerful. Counter-intuitively to his obvious visual sophistication, it is exactly because he chooses to mess with the balance of his carefully thought-out compositions. Like a Lisa Fonsagrives portrait captures the almost awkward strangeness of her extreme beauty – the mystifying gestures, the audacious shapes, the melancholic impossibility of recapturing such a sublime moment – Stratis Kas reminds us that failure is nobler than art, and will win over vision always, teaching us to always go further than the obvious.
A model’s gaze is indifferent even if the clothes and set-up are dramatic; a gesture is awkward when one would expect etiolated grace; political provocations constantly threaten the regime of glossy magazine detachment via odd casting choices and upsetting scenarios like editorials that juxtapose haute couture, nudity and working class neighborhoods in broad daylight; gender, age, beauty and elegance are redefined; there is a constant playfulness whose dissonance vibrates well outside the expected modalities of contemporary media imagery.