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Documentary & portraiture photography

2.1 The gaze in portraiture 2.2 Image and text 2.3 Case studies
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arrow Case Studies - Hamish Fulton | Karen Knorr | Duane Michals | Barbara Kruger

Karen Knorr is a German-born Canadian, now living in London. She uses words and pictures to form social commentaries to convey her fictional interpretations. Using models, Knorr creates scenes in narrative series which together form a large statement; each set of picture and text a component part of the whole.

The text is designed to be integral, within the framework of the conceptualization of the piece from its inception. The photographs are of a uniform style, classical in composition, with many references to social recording by painters and photographers throughout the ages.

She refers to the text as ‘legends’ rather than captions or titles, and these are designed to be complimentary to the pictures, not in competition. The words are printed directly on to the photographic paper. Knorr varies the typeface for each project, always keeping the font style very plain, so as not to detract through too much design interference.

She describes the use of words and pictures to form fictionalized narrative as an attempt to create a “paradox of wanting to use realism against itself.” Knorr adds, “I did not want the text to be naturalistic any more than the image. Both had to ‘defamiliarize’ or ‘distance’ our identification with what is represented. That is why I capitalize certain words, break up the text and arrange it so that it resembles advertising copy.”

By combining the words and pictures, Knorr tries to create a third meaning for the pieces, combining the visual with the discursive. The figurative representation the photographs bring is interrupted by the semantics of the words used, and their style of presentation creates a montage. She says, “Neither image nor text comes first. Neither explains or completes the other. Both add to each other,”

Knorr sees the use of a combination of words and pictures in one closed frame as a device. She attempts to slow down the viewer’s ‘pace of consumption’ creating a ‘slow motion reading’ leaving room for reflection.

© John Frederick Anderson