Iron Portraits


Tools have been essential to our growth and evolution as a species. No one would question their vital need for any task at hand, but Kagan’s work forces us to us pay attention to these strange and beautiful objects that often no longer have a use in our daily lives. In fact, many will wonder what some of these objects are . . . and that mystery is, sometimes, an essential part of this work.

Kagan expresses that he is less interested in the tools as tools but rather seeing them as icons. Responding to their incredible sculptural qualities such as their surface, tone, balance, line, and geometry, his fascination is of the the tools of his previous career as an outstanding woodworker.

Kagan collected tools as found art for years but later became interested in making portraits of the implements to serve as visual records of an individual tool, each with its own history, life and identity. ¬†Using traditional 4×5 film cameras and complex lighting he prints in a well-equipped darkroom on warm toned silver paper that is archivally processed and toned in selenium to yield luminous finished photographs. These “portraits” form a serious and compelling body of work that also illustrates a great sense of wonder, humor and whimsy.

Richard Kagan’s photographs have been exhibited worldwide and are in many important private collections as well as the permanent collections of The Philadelphia Museum of Art and Lehigh University among others.