Karen Knorr (b. 1954 Frankfurt, Germany) is one of the most internationally renowned women in photography. In addition to her creative practice, Karen is professor of photography at the University for the Creative Arts, and part of the steering committee of the research project Fast Forward Women in Photography, an initiative which highlights the work of women photographers and questions the formation of the canon.
Raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico in the 1960s, Karen finished her education in Paris and London. She studied at the University of Westminster in the mid 1970s, exhibiting photography that addressed the ‘politics of representation’ practices which emerged during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
One such example is Karen’s Gentlemen 1981 – 1983, an astute study of the patriarchal values of English upper-middle class men. Situated within private, men-only clubs in St. James’, Central London, the images are captioned with text derived from parliamentary speeches and media news. The fragmented phrases, such as ‘Men are interested in Power / Women are more interested in Service’, emphasise the exclusionary reality of business and politics – a world replete with barriers which continue to impede women’s progress and silence their voices.
Karen’s more recent series, including Monogatari, India Song, and Fables, illustrate non-human animals in opulent domestic interiors and other sites of cultural significance. Rejecting the moralistic conventions of traditional fables, in which animals appear as metaphors for human folly, Karen’s recreations instead liberate these creatures into typically forbidden territory – opening questions regarding institutional boundaries and the relationship between humanity and the natural world.
Karen has taught, exhibited and lectured internationally, including at Tate Britain, Tate Modern, The University of Westminster, Goldsmiths, Harvard and The Art Institute of Chicago. One of her most recent exhibitions of work was in Masculinities, curated by Alona Pardo at the Barbican, London and part of Les Rencontres d’Arles 2021.