Art is meant to evoke emotion. Portrait Photographer Tom Casalini takes it further by producing feelings in his subjects. Casalini, who is celebrating his 50th anniversary as a portrait photographer in 2023, goes through a detailed process of getting to know his
“It’s always mandatory we have a consultation session before sitting for the portrait,” Casalini says. “In that session we get to know each other a little better, but also it gives the client a chance to get to know themselves a little better. Some clients say it feels like a therapy session once it’s over. If I’m creating your portrait I have to know who you are, but more importantly, you have to know who you are.”
Throughout his tenure in the industry he’s curated several gallery series, including “Famous Hoosiers,” “Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients” and “Indiana Artists.” The “Famous Hoosiers” series was a fundraiser for the Indiana State Museum and included portraits of sons and daughters of Indiana, including John Mellencamp, Jane Pauley, Shelley Long and Jim Davis, among others.
“In my 30th year of photography, I heard the Congressional Medal of Honor recipients were going to be parade marshals and I thought that would be a fascinating project,” Casalini says. “The oxymoron is the rest of us look at them as heroes, and they just look at themselves as ordinary people.”
The five-year project included tireless work with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. The 48 portraits were then turned into a hardbound book titled “Ordinary Heroes: A Tribute to Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients: Reflections of Freedom, Faith, Duty and the Heroic Possibilities of the Everyday Human Spirit.” The book received high accolades from American historian Stephen Ambrose, legendary broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite and Indiana author Kurt Vonnegut.
The Indiana native says the “Indiana Artists” series was vital to him because he feels people often look at a piece of art and make an immediate judgment, without looking at the creator’s process in finalizing a piece of art. The portraits immortalized the artists with samples of their work. Casalini says the artists were in attendance on opening night and were able to explain their work and process.
Casalini says the length of his career sometimes feels like a mathematical error, because it doesn’t seem like he could have been doing this work for five decades. He says, in some ways, he feels like he’s just getting started. He says his work is creating generational pieces for clients and has been rewarding.
“I’ve been blessed to have an incredible group of people that believed in me throughout this time,” Casalini says. “I’ve also stuck to my guns and never wavered away from the craft of portrait work. I’m old fashioned. I don’t do anything electronically, and that takes time. Once the portraits are edited, we sit down and discuss them. It’s a very personalized experience.”
Casalini plans to continue his portrait photography work and is also releasing another book called “The Queerness Doesn’t Matter: A Journey With My Friends of Dorothy.”
Casalini Portraits is located at 10½ North Main Street in Zionsville. For more information, call 317-873-4858 or visit casaliniportraits.com.
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