Research notes – Karen Knorr

Karen Knorr (b 1954) is an American photographer, famous for her series on wealthy Londoners and for her travel photography.  Her London work started with the Belgravia series.

Belgravia – link

Karen Knorr photographs here her home and that of her neighbours in Belgravia, London. There is a bit of connection between this work and that of Tina Barney, although Karen Knorr does not seem to be following characters either through their life or through time. The characters look detached and distant, sometimes indifferent to the camera and in many cases indifferent to each other.

“…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.”(1)

I think it is the text that makes these photographs. Sometimes the relationship between text and photograph is too explicit (like in the case of the maid cleaning her room, or the group of youngsters at the table), but in many other cases it leads to small incongruences that accentuate the the story and the political commentary behind the satire.

Karen followed up the Belgravia series with two similar series entitled “Gentlemen”and “Ladies”

Gentlemen – link
Ladies – link

Like in the case of Belgravia, it is the combination of pictures and text is what really makes these series. It is interesting to see how she sources he texts (from interviews with the models in “ladies” and from newspaper articles in “Gentlemen”). Sometimes Knorr only shows us the setting without people, other than representations in paintings or sculptures. The use of these props creates a great effect in some of the pictures (like the one with the bust of Margaret Thatcher or the one with the young man being seen by two classic sculptures, both from the Gentleman series). One gets the sense that nothing is left to chance in these pictures and that everything is as carefully arranged as possible.

(1)  Karen Knorr. 2014. Belgravia | Karen Knorr. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 27 June 2016].


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