500 Portraits is home to a celebration of individuality, difference, and kinship.
The complete collection of portraits and text 'One Me · One Family' includes an epic poem called 'Young Before The Dawn' and reads as a stream of human experience.
The message of this work is to celebrate human difference, yet at the same time to recognise those things we experience in common, no matter our gender, age, ethnicity, or cultural setting. We are each an individual (One Me), yet also part of a larger whole of human kind (One Family).
Although I created a series of self portraits in 1990, my visual artworks have rarely shown the human form until my work here. The challenge for me in presenting people in my art and photography is two-fold. As soon as a known likeness of a person is shown, interpretations about that person are invited. I have been concerned that presenting a portrait inevitably leads to the subject's loss of agency. Portraits can be viewed, used, and exploited in ways that are at times unintended or unexpected, and this can lead to the disadvantage or even harm of the subject. My second concern is that I feel an ethical responsibility of ensuring I present as honest a view of the subject of a portrait as possible. This places a brake on my moving portraits into more uncomfortable or even extreme places that convey a particular feeling, thought, or mood more powerfully. Doing so may not marry with the wishes of the real person, genuinely reflect their character, nor respect their own sense of identity.
I address these issues at 500 Portraits by creating fictional representations of people, and I have used AI in addition to my art and photographic tools to assist me as part of my creative process. Those interested in my use of AI are welcome to read the supplementary page The Artist And Artificial Intelligence.
AI allows me to shape the character of a person freely in the service of One Me · One Family. As with a story or film, my aim is for the viewer to suspend their disbelief and consider these portraits as real. Portraiture attempts to convey a truth about an individual, whether they are real or imagined.
One Me · One Family was a long time in the making. I wanted to create a series of stories about people who are under-represented. These 'stories' began to take shape as portraits which have the power to encapsulate an individual's narrative. Some portraits are photographic in style, while others are illustrative, painterly, and some may have hints of the artificial about them - those who know my work will be familiar with my thoughts and creative output about Artificial Consciousness.
No photos are presented at 500 Portraits. All are artworks and show the sitter with a direct gaze. Continuity is important for me as I shape any composition. After considering whether the portraits should be framed or unframed, I decided once again to reduce the distance between the visitor and the portrait so that the connection with the subject is more palpable.
A short line of text is shown under each portrait that speaks of the subject's emotional life, thoughts, or ideas. The text and visual portrait form a whole to make an artwork on each page. Seeing a portrait alone, or reading the text in isolation is a different experience. All five hundred portraits taken together with the epic poem forms the complete work 'One Me · One Family'.
The publication address 500portraits.art was chosen over onemeone.family because it is a more easily understandable generic phrase, and has a greater potential to attract more visitors through organic searches. Visitors can however enter a number of domains like 500portraits.com and onefamilyone.me to arrive here.
The portraits are not linked to from thumb nail images, but from an alphabetical list. This approach not only encourages greater discovery, it also presents the entire epic poem 'Young Before The Dawn' in an easy to read format.
Rather than a stream of consciousness (a literary form that tries to convey the constant flux of physical experience, feeling, thought, and ideas of an individual), the epic poem is a stream of human existence from many points of view, as well as the many feelings and thoughts we have as individuals during our lives condensed into five hundred lines. The most satisfying yet demanding reading of this publication is to travel through each portrait in order. As with all poetry, revisiting the poem will continually set in motion new thoughts, associations, and ideas.
Despite the scale of One Me · One Family, visitors can alight on a single portrait, read the text, and leave. I hope this publication is therefore as satisfying for the casual visitor, as for those who wish to engage more deeply with its content.
I ponder on each line. I visit, then revisit. I read each line of words in order. I read aloud. I string two or more lines together from different places. I come and go. I meet strangers, friends, family, those I dislike, and those I love. I find myself and others. With, and alone. I find my inner world, and another's too. At best I find myself with you.
All artwork, text, and design at 500 Portraits is created by Mike de Sousa, a content philanthropist who offers his music, art, photography, poetry, and social publications freely and without commercial distraction.
Mike's work is free for personal enjoyment, however it may not be used for commercial gain. All content is under copyright.