Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Sumptuous and Exotic Photography of Karen Knorr

At work the other day I was looking at the most recent Penn State University Press catalog. The cover has an interesting photo of an interior with a bird, rabbit, turtle and a fox all standing within a luxurious interior.  It amused me and I thought, "this photographer is someone I have to look up." 

That night I was reading the NYT and came across photos that looked similar and yes they were by the same photographer, Karen KnorrKaren Knorr is an American photographer living in London. She has an interesting background as she was born in Germany and grew up in Puerto Rico and then went to art school in Paris and London.

Ms. Knorr took an interest in architecture and lavish interiors at a young age. When she lived with her parents in London it was in Belgravia, home to some of England’s richest.
She did not approve of her mother’s decorating taste which at the time was all the rage, Laura Ashley wallpapers and chintz furniture. Her distaste for this decorating style prompted her to make fun of the rich and their style by taking photos of her neighborhood and its residents. Her mother and grandmother appear in the photos looking rather smug.

Knorr has pointed her camera at the colorful and intricate interiors at the palaces at Rajasthan in India. For the past few years she has combined the interiors with her digitally placing animals within the images very much like the Penn State catalog mentioned above. She uses tigers, elephants, monkeys, peacocks and other exotic animals. “Some of these portraits are based on Islamic fables, but there are other stories embedded within them, as the images pose questions about colonialism, exoticism, gender, religion, politics and more.” (NYT article).

Knorr's work is fascinating as she creates a surreal world beasts with rarely see placed into environments we wouldn't imagine them to be seen in. Just how would the rich feel about a tiger or a fox inside their living space? 

You can read an interview with Karen Knorr here in the New York Times' article,  
Karen Knorr’s Photography, an Ironic Sense of Place

She also has a new book out called, The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Culture of Longing, and a show at the Danziger Gallery in New York City.

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