Kitra Cahana is a freelance documentary/fine art photographer and video artist whose work explores important social, anthropological, and spiritual themes. Born in Miami, but raised in Canada and Sweden, Kitra earned her B.A. in philosophy from McGill University and her M.A. in visual and media anthropology from the Freie Universitat in Berlin. She is a contributing photographer to National Geographic Magazine.
As a documentary photographer, Kitra embeds herself in communities, often for months at a time, in order to learn the language of her subjects. She has chronicled the daily lives of teens at a Texas high school, told the story of a Venezuelan cult, followed a group of nomadic youth across the United States.
As a fine art photographer, Kitra focuses on the less explicable, often pushing the possibilities of the photographic medium. Her work in this genre deals with themes of the body and spirituality, a topic she took on following her father, Rabbi Ronnie Cahana‘s stroke, which led him to become a quadriplegic. She is also influenced by her grandmother Alice Lok Cahana‘s mixed media abstract paintings. Kitra is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including a 2014 TED fellowship, the 2013 International Center of Photography’s Young Photographer Award, apart of the National Geographic Women of Vision exhibition, first prize for the 2010 World Press Photo, a scholarship at FABRICA in Italy, the Thomas Morgan internship at the New York Times, a Canada Council Grant for the Visual Arts and more.
In the summer of 2011 my father had a severe brainstem stroke that left him locked into his body; paralyzed from the eyes down with a fully cognizant mind. Unable to move anything below the eyes or make any sound, my mother, siblings and I became his transcribers, his mouthpiece, facilitating for him to express all the inner thoughts swirling through his very active mind. We took shifts reciting the alphabet for hours on end. We wrote slowly, tenderly, allowing him to compose sermons, poems and essays letter by letter, blink by blink. Writing just a few paragraphs could take up to 15 hours of focus. And so we did just that. We wrote and wrote and in between writing we moved his arms and legs that were slowly beginning to atrophy. He has since regained his ability to speak and breathe on his own and continues to make slow but steady progress. This project is a collaboration between myself and my father.
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(photo collaboration: Cristian Movila & Kitra Cahana)