Kitra Cahana was born in 1987. Her artistic medium consists of: photography, text and video. She works as a freelance documentary photographer and videographer.
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.
As a documentary photographer, Kitra embeds herself in communities, often for months at a time. 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. She is a contributing photographer to National Geographic Magazine.
As a fine art photographer and video artist, 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, a 2014-2015 artist residency at Prim Centre, the 2013 International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award, 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, Rabbi Ronnie Cahana of Montreal, had a brain stem stroke that left him locked-in, a mind trapped in a body; completely paralyzed except for the eyes, with all his cognitive abilities in tact. Through a methodology of blinking, he began composing poetry and sermons, with myself, my mother and siblings as his transcribers. 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.
Since then he has regained his ability to breathe, to have slight movement of his limbs and the ability to speak with a waning voice. I focused my camera as he began regaining body, slowly coming back to life at the age of 57. I have continued to work with my father, transcribing and recording his experiences while also trying to find a visual language to express the spirituality of his experience. I am developing this series of images, audio and video for exhibition.
Due to the extreme nature of a brainstem stroke my father requires full-time care and additional assistance beyond what the nursing home can provide. A body that has had every system affected as severely as Rabbi Cahana’s needs hours of attention each day. If he isn’t moved on a daily basis and if physiotherapy is not maintained his body hardens, and the gains he has made are lost. We’ve seen it happen many times in the last three years, resulting in many complications. My father’s biggest dream is to gain enough functional movement so that the family can afford to bring him home. Our dream as a family is to improve his quality of life as much as possible in the trying circumstances, living an institutionalized life.
Please consider donating to the Rabbi Cahana Rehabilitation Fund: