Kitty Leaken is a photographer who is looking at the art and culture of our lives. She moved to New Mexico after graduating Stanford University because of an anthropology course she took on its culture and history. Having grown up overseas, her parents were in the foreign service, New Mexico beckoned as a place with roots. She learned photojournalism on the job at the Santa Fe Reporter and the Santa Fe New Mexican.
On assignment, she began photographing a community of Tibetans who had moved to Santa Fe in a resettlement program, looking at how they kept their culture while adjusting to life in the U.S. The award winning special section,Tibet in Exile, was then featured in a yearlong exhibit at the Museum of International Folk Art. That exhibit also produced her first book, Art of Exile: Paintings by Tibetan Children in India (Museum of New Mexico Press), based on her work as program director for Art Refuge, a nonprofit providing art therapy and a safe transitional space for Tibetan youth in Kathmandu, Nepal and Dharamsala, India, awaiting school placement. Her short film, Dance of Young Nomads, featured a vibrant community in exile at Tibetan Homes Foundation in Mussoorie, India. Art Refuge expanded to an orphanage in Sri Lanka that sheltered Buddhist, Muslim and Christian girls under one roof and later, Tsunami survivors.
In Santa Fe, Leaken has photographed native American communities for two books: Contemporary Native American Artists and Kevin Red Star: Crow Indian Artist (both Gibbs Smith Publisher), as well as three New-Mexico based cookbooks: Cafe Pasqual’s (Tenspeed/Random House), Cooking with Johnny Vee (Gibbs Smith) and New Mexico Farm Table Cookbook (Countryman Press).
She attempts landscape photography at the rustic family straw bale cabin on a small river deep in the woods of northern New Mexico.