Consuelo Kanaga - Passion & Humanity: The Susie Tompkins Buell Collection New York Thursday, April 4, 2019 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Simon Lowinsky Gallery, New York, 1990
    Page Imageworks, San Francisco, as agent

  • Exhibited

    Object Lessons: Masterworks of Modernist Photography from Three Bay Area Collections, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 7 December 1995 - 10 March 1996
    Collected, Pier 24 Photography, San Francisco, 2 May 2016 - 31 January 2017

  • Literature

    Pier 24 Photography, Collected, p. 103 (this print)
    Millstein and Lowe, Consuelo Kanaga: An American Photographer, cover and p. 100

  • Catalogue Essay

    Few photographers’ lives have threaded in and out of the history of 20th-century photography as did Consuelo Kanaga’s. Born in Oregon, she began her photographic career at the San Francisco Chronicle, and from there her work in the medium brought her into contact with a whole host of notables: from Albert Bender to Alfred Stieglitz, from photographers associated with Group f.64 to those of New York’s Photo League. A true individualist, she connected deeply with her colleagues in the field, but declined to become a member of any movement or devote herself to a single ideology. Her photographs were exhibited in Group f.64’s inaugural show in San Francisco in 1932 and at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, multiple times in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. In a career that spanned decades, her approach to photography was driven exclusively by an overriding sense of empathy for her subjects.

    Kanaga’s peripatetic life took her to several American cities and to Europe, and she supported herself with magazine work and portrait commissions, all the while continuing her personal photographic projects. She moved to New York permanently in 1935, and in 1936, she married the painter Wallace Putnam, from whose collection many of the Kanaga works in this sale originally come.

    Kanaga was, perhaps, one of the finest photographers to ever photograph African Americans. Her work avoided the cliché, the dramatized, or the sentimental, and focused instead on the dignity of the individuals who came before her camera. She was socially progressive in a segregated America. According to those who knew her, she was a passionate champion of those ill-treated or ignored by society. In a 1972 interview she summed up her life’s work thus: ‘One thing I had to say in my photography was that Negroes are beautiful and that poverty is a tender and terrible subject to be approached on one’s knees’ (Camera 35, Vol. 16, No. 10).

    The photograph offered here was taken on a trip to Tennessee in 1948, a trip that resulted in what many regard as some of Kanaga’s best work.


Profile of a Young Girl from the Tennessee Series

Gelatin silver print.
11 7/8 x 9 5/8 in. (30.2 x 24.4 cm)
Credit stamp on the reverse of the mount.

$15,000 - 25,000 

Sold for $106,250

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Passion & Humanity: The Susie Tompkins Buell Collection

New York Auction 4 April 2019