Karen Knorr


Karen Knorr – ‘Belgravia

I loved this work for several reasons

  • Here is a new way, for me at least, to add text to images – I can use this approach
  • They are humourous and ironic
  • They are constructed by a tribe insider as a collaborative work – as opposed to being deceptive
  • They produce a ‘third meaning’ which is completed by the viewer

It is this latter dimension that is most interesting and I saw this, without realising, last year at a video installation by Fiona Tan at The Baltic in Gateshead. It was called Disorient (2009) and was a two-channel video projection that contrasted the fantasy and current day reality of trade routes between Venice and Asia with a narrative taken from Marco Polo’s 700-year-old book, The Travels.  You were left to create meaning for that ‘in between space;’ for example, Marco Polo talks about “Warring tribes that inhabit the local hills” and we  see on the screen troops (? American) in that landscape.



Karen Knorr, ‘Belgravia’

The work describes the ‘everyday’ of a privileged minority. Historically, portraiture of the upper classes has tended to be flattering but the combination of image and text brings this work is closer to satire and caricature, without losing the strong reality effect specific to photography. The meaning of the work can be found in the space between image and text: neither text nor image illustrate each other, but create a “third meaning” to be completed by the spectator. The text slows down the viewing process as we study the text and return to re-evaluate the image in light of what we have read.. There are key words capitalised and words from conversations are broken up and laid out on the surface of the photographic paper emphasizing its cnstructed and ironic nature, The people photographed become actors and perform their identities in a collaborative fashion with me. We choose clothes together and decide in which part of their homes would suit the portrait, There is a real complicity between us. They are after all “family”. (Knorr, 1979-81)

Karen Knorr – Gentlemen

This is very similar to the Belgravia series. I learnt one additional thing from this. I have not been keen to repeat my presentation of images but sometimes it is efficient and effective to do the same thing. For example, I was shy of using diptychs with coloured backgrounds referencing sterile NHS colours as I have used them before in Context and Narrative. That would have been more effective but I wanted to try something new.


Karen Knorr, Belgravia 1979-81. http://karenknorr.com/photography/belgravia/. Accessed 8th September 2016. http://karenknorr.com/photography/belgravia/

Karen Knorr, Gentlemen 1981-83. http://karenknorr.com/photography/gentlemen/ Accessed 8th September 2016. http://karenknorr.com/photography/gentlemen/