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Exhibitions

'Consuelo Kanaga. Catching the spirit' at the Mapfre Foundation

The exhibition, which can be visited until August 25, is made up of nearly 180 photographs and documentary material from various archives

Consuelo Kanaga. Young Girl in Profile [Noia de perfil], 1948. © Brooklyn Museum. (Foto: Brooklyn Museum)
'Consuelo Kanaga. Catching the spirit' at the Mapfre Foundation

In 2003, Life magazine published 100 Photographs that Changed the World, a compendium of works that have had an impact on our time and that, without a doubt, have contributed to transforming our perspective. Among them, View from the window at Le Gras, taken by the engineer Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce in the summer of 1826, is considered the first official photograph. In order to achieve it, Niépce needed more than eight hours of exposure so that the camera obscura focused on a pewter plate would reveal the scene he was contemplating. In those eight hours of overexcitement and anxiety, of hopeful silence and a captive gaze, Niépce placed us in one of the most significant transformations of modernity. With him, photography began its own path and it did so with the conviction that there are many forms of expression and multiple views. However, what places photography at the top of the podium is its inherent persistence in immortalizing time. From that moment, this discipline developed to establish itself in each and every one of the estates of society and also in the intimate and private sphere. The viewer became, thus, a kaleidoscope that approached the oscillating movements of the world, the wildest atrocities, the most convulsive transformations and the inherent desire for denunciation that the new language embraced. Soon, however, photography became imbued with gesture in a process where subject and object – the eye and the world – established an unprecedented complicity.

'Consuelo Kanaga. Catching the spirit' at the Mapfre Foundation After Years of Hard Work (Tennessee) [Després d'anys de treball dur (Tennessee)], 1948. © Brooklyn Museum. (Foto: Brooklyn Museum)

"When you take a photograph, it is fundamentally an image of yourself. This is the important thing. [...] I think that the essential thing is not to capture the sight but the spirit", declared the American photographer Consuelo Kanaga (1894-1978). With a long professional journey that spans the two coasts of the United States – San Francisco and New York –, Kanaga began her journey as a journalist, editor and photographer at the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, where she would come into contact with Camera Work artists, the avant-garde magazine of one of the most important promoters of photography, Alfred Stieglitz, with whom he maintained a friendship once he moved to New York.

The trajectory of this artist with an attentive and poignant gaze did not extend to excess, probably because what interested her most was to use the possibilities of the image as a form of denunciation. However – and this is where his great value lies – his gesture was never explicit or vulgar, but the characters portrayed are carriers of dignity and distinction, two recurrent adjectives in Kanaga's artistic work.

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