San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Photographer Creates Archive of Tico Heritage

The ruined church in Santiago de Puriscal, 40 kilometers southwest of San José, is a nostalgic landmark for its inhabitants and anyone driving through en route to the Pacific coast. Damaged beyond repair in a 1990 earthquake, its cracked walls and broken windows remain a symbol of a community’s valiant efforts come to nothing.

Construction with mostly local volunteer labor started in 1936 and took more than 20 years to complete. But the building was doomed even then, built as it was on unstable foundations and with more religious enthusiasm than engineering expertise.

Most records of the church’s history have been lost, though older Puriscal residents relate it was the first concrete construction in the town, with imported Italian marble and a clock from Spain. The magnificent mural of St. James the Apostle fighting the infidels, painted by local sculptor and artist Abilio Valverde, survives – barely – although the east wall is in imminent danger of collapse, after which the mural will be lost forever.

The dearth of recorded history and the church’s inevitable ruination because of lack of restoration funding led U.S. retiree Frank Kainrath, 68, to make a detailed pictorial archive of the structure. Now residing in Ciudad Colón, southwest of the capital, with his wife, Janie, Kainrath has combined a former California-based career in photography with a subsequent profession in the computer industry to create exquisitely composed, haunting digital canvases of a place of worship fallen into abandon.

His recently opened exhibit in the AltaHotel, on the old road between the western San José suburb of Escazú and Santa Ana, showcases 10 pictures of the church printed on velvet fine-art paper and mounted behind glass to protect against fungal invasion.

Kainrath’s technical proficiency in digital enhancement never overshadows the innate artistry and balance within each photo. The result is both an invaluable historical record and a collectable work of art.

The remainder of the exhibit is given over to the photographer’s recent trip to Antigua, Guatemala, and consists of charismatic portraits of the city’s Mayan population.

Sometimes poignant, sometimes delicately humorous, Kainrath captures the resilient essence of a people in his deceptively simple images. The studies are printed on stretched giclée canvas, giving them a textural quality similar to oil paintings.

Kainrath’s occasional use of stretched black nylon gauze over his Canon 20D lenses adds an even more artful representational character to his photographs.

The exhibit runs through Feb. 28 and is open to the public. All works are available for purchase, mounted or not, from $55 to $215. Smaller eight-by-12-inch copies are on sale for $25, and $3 greetings cards are also on offer in the hotel’s souvenir shop.

As Kainrath’s work is reproducible, you can visit the show and take home anything you like. For multiple orders, the velvet fine-art photos can be delivered in 24 hours and the treated canvases in three days.

For more information, contact Kainrath at 2249-2481 or, or call the AltaHotel at 2282-4160.


Comments are closed.