Karen Knorr

Karen Knorr was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the 1960s. She finished her education in Paris and London. 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. She studied at the University of Westminster in the mid-1970s, exhibiting photography that addressed debates in cultural studies and film theory concerning the ‘politics of representation’ practices that emerged during the late 1970s and early 1980s. She is currently Professor of Photography at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, Surrey. 

In her Fables series (2004-2008,) Knorr playfully mixes analog and digital photography, reconfiguring tales from Ovid, Aesop, and La Fontaine with popular culture like Disney and Attenborough in museums and heritage sites. These include the Carnavalet Museum, the Museum of Hunt and Nature in Paris, Chambord Castle, the Conde Museum in Chantilly Castle, and Versailles. The visual style of these photographs is rich with reference to the baroque. In the last section of the work, Knorr interrogated the free-flowing space of modern architecture in Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, reintroducing life into the modernist aesthetic of a building. 

Since her life-changing journey to Rajasthan, India, in 2008, Karen Knorr’s work explores the Rajput and Mughal cultural heritage and its relationship to feminine subjectivity and animality. India Song, a series of carefully crafted photographs, explores the past and its relation to India’s contemporary heritage sites across Rajasthan. Since 2012 Knorr has visited Japan to reflect on tradition within contemporary Japan, referencing Ukiyo-e prints and folktales connected to Shinto and Buddhist heritage sites. Her first series, entitled Monogatari, places animals and humans in temple sites found in Nara, Kyoto, Tokyo, and Ohara. Her second related series, Karyukai, is inspired by Kano’s 36 portraits of poets, also referencing “bijinga” prints of the 17th century. Women photographed by Karen Knorr were asked to compose waka and haiku, reflecting on their life and dreams. Knorr’s photography is visually seductive and offers the viewer aspects of the universe from different concepts of civilization and the potential and richness of the natural world. Her photographs are alluring mixes of opulent and historical locations with anthropomorphic animals. She creates imaginary narratives that question our societies and their significance on our individual free will.


  Tate London, London, UK

  Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

  Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, FR

  Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, FR

  San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, US

  National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, JP

Photography & Works