New York

Consuelo Kanaga

Lerner-Heller Gallery

“When you make a photograph, it is very much a picture of your own self. . . . Most people try to be striking to catch the eye. I think the thing is not to catch the eye but the spirit.” With this observation, Consuelo Kanaga succinctly characterizes the retrospective of her photographs from the 1920s. Beginning as a newspaper reporter, Kanaga soon came under the influence of Alfred Steiglitz and the photographers featured in Camera Work. The simple directness of her vision, as well as the controlled developing of her prints to bring out their tonal richness, evidence her affiliation with proponents of straight photography like Stieglitz and Paul Strand. Indicative of her preference for the extreme contrasts of black-and-white are her numerous portraits of black people. By frequently isolating her subjects’ heads with a close-up focus, Kanaga lets these individuals reveal their own dignity through direct confrontation with the viewer. Although occasionally there is a romantic inclination to monumentalize her subject, as in the silhouetted profile of a young girl gazing upward, generally Kanaga lets her people speak for themselves.

Similarly in her photos of found still lifes and fragments of nature, Kanaga uses the camera as a tool to recapture the unpretentious beauty she finds in the everyday. Her artistry lies in her choice of subject matter and her straightforward presentation with its emphasis on the natural play of light and shade. Kanaga rarely imposes an interpretation on her images. She simply asks one to share her delight in things as she finds them.

––Susan Heinemann