Karen Knorr, If Livingstone, from the series Gentlemen, 1981-83
"If Livingstone gets his way we might soon be Living in the People's Republic of Greater London." © Karen Knorr
The project was not just about acquiring new objects. An important element involved working with young Londoners to give them an insight into the museum and its collections. Specifically, this meant working with a filmmaker, a photographer and museum staff to make a short film about one of the photographers whose work we had collected. In the film shown here, Dan, Nada and Violeta met and interviewed photographer Karen Knorr. Through a series of thoughtfully composed questions and an informal discussion with Karen, they drew out the story behind her photo series Gentlemen, three prints from which we acquired in 2015.
It is clear from the film that, not unlike like Margaret Harrison, Karen consciously set out to critique class and gender roles in British society. She does this is in subtle ways, through details such as the unstable house of cards in one print, for instance, or by pairing her images with a text which either reinforces or undercuts how we read the image.
Important influences on Karen, as she revealed in the interview, were the 18th century British tradition of ‘conversation piece’ portraits, such as those of William Hogarth, and the satirical prints of Thomas Rowlandson. The museum has a large collection of works by Rowlandson and his contemporaries, so Karen’s admission helps to locate her work within a long tradition of British visual art which examines the society around it.