INSPIRATION: The Contemporary Photography of Karen Knorr

Karen Knorr is a London-based artist who photographs geographically diverse upper class interiors and pairs them with symbolic animal representations.

Who is Karen Knorr?

Karen Knorr’s work is as geographically diverse as the artist’s own life. Karen Knorr was born in Germany and raised in Puerto Rico, before she lived in Paris and settled in London. While she works in video and installation, she is best known for her contemporary photography and digital collages. The foremost themes in her work include class, the distribution of privilege and wealth, value systems, symbolic animal representations, and issues of power at the foundation of cultural heritage. Knorr prefers to look at the privileged rather than the disenfranchised. Most recently, Knorr has produced a series of digitally modified interiors set in India, based on fables and injustices.


Metamorphoses (2015-2017)

“Metamorphoses, a new series in progress explores Italian legacy in Europe using Ovid’s Metamorphoses as frame in which to consider heritage and mutability in today’s Europe. Pagan stories overlap with christian ones, as an anxious response to recent global migrations that may transform the remnants of old Europe into a pluralistic dynamic federation or a closed fortress.”


India Song (2008 – Present)

“The extraordinary work of acclaimed photographer Karen Knorr and her poetic journey through the Indian Subcontinent. Karen Knorr began her ‘India Song’ series in 2008, after a life-changing trip through Rajasthan. These carefully crafted images take inspiration from the Indian tradition of personifying animals in literature and art, depicting scenarios that are at once otherworldly and surreal. Knorr’s work explores Rajput and Mughal cultural heritage and its contemporary relationship to questions of feminine subjectivity and animality.”


The Lanesborough (2015)

““The Lanesborough” (once a hospital closed in the 1990’s) is one of the most expensive hotels in the world, where the wealthy 1% strive to live the celebrity lifestyle. Rooms come with butlers and the hotel is a themed fantasy palace where the special few can find happiness and fulfil all their desires of a perfect weekend in London. The animals here are undressed to kill and are all very willing subjects for Knorr’s camera. They pose, fly, flaunt their jewellery and royal connections who live down Buckingham Palace Road. This work emerged out of commission for Departures (2015) and is a playful satire on how to aspire to be rich rich and happy in a very exclusive part of town: Belgravia.”


Monogatari (2012 – Present)

“A series started in 2012, imagines animal life and Japanese cultural heritage referencing buddhist Jataka tales and Japanese stories.

Photographed in temples, shrines, ryokans and gardens in Kyoto, Nara, Ise and Tokyo, animals and women in traditional kimonos evoke screen art of the Edo period. Knorr, inspired by Japanese art (ukijo-e, screen painting) has produced a series of photographs of Japanese animals which appear in temples and shrines referencing the folktales of the supernatural such as Kaidan and Shinto kami (spirits).

Animals and nature depicted on gorgeous golden screens painted during the Edo period (16th century) by the Kano school of painters are found in castles, temples in Tokyo and Kyoto. Yurei and yokai, ghosts and supernatural monsters appear in Japanese folk tales published in Kibyoshi, genre of picture book, an early form of the comic book and more recently in Pokemon. They may possess animal like features or other times they can appear mostly human or take the shape of an inanimate object.

The red crowned crane which resides in China, Korea and Japan is often featured in myths and legends in Taoism, it is a symbol of longevity and appears often in screens and scroll paintings. More recently it is the emblem of Japanese airlines.”


Karen Knorr Photography

The Opium Smoker

One of my personal favourites. Beautiful architecture and lovely juxtaposition with bold colours.


Do you love Karen’s work as much as I do? If you would like to view more of Karen Knorr’s photography, please do check out her website. As always, I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

Rose Lagacé | @artdepartmental


You can find previous Inspiration posts here.
Source: Karen Knorr website, 2017.

Posted by Rose Lagacé

Rose Lagacé is a production designer for film & television by day and an emerging filmmaker by night. Rose is also the creator and editor of Art Departmental where she celebrates the art and craft of production design.

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