I must admit, I'd never heard of Karen Knorr until I saw the study visit advertised. Additionally I didn't really investigate any of her work until the morning of the visit! That confession aside, my overall view of the exhibition was positive. There were two bodies of work, produced between 1979 and 1983: 'Gentlemen' and 'Belgravia'. These photographs were taken around the time Margaret Thatcher was elected to Prime Minister and during her first term in office. Although the wealthy establishment had been around well before Thatcher, this period was at the beginning of a time when greed and affluence were starting to be viewed by more than a few, as desirable. It would be interesting to know how Knorr's feelings have may changed since she took the photographs.
The photographs themselves are a mixture of portraits and room shots. Belgravia has more portraits whereas Gentlemen is more of a mixture of the two. Almost all of the images in Gentlemen, where there is no actual person in the photograph, contains a painting of a person - sometimes the subject of the painting is linked in some way to the caption. It seems clear - judging by the captions associated with each image - that Knorr took these photographs with the intention of denigrating the subjects. Although the photographs themselves often show the subjects in a positive light, the captions - taken from high-end magazines, as well as quotes from parliament and which are not directly connected to the subject - are often meant to belittle the subject; or more accurately, belittle the subject's background and demographic. The captions in 'Belgravia' seem more cutting as they are implied to come from the mouths of the sitters, whereas in 'Gentlemen' they seem to be more the views of 'the establishment' as often there are no people in the shot. All the images are in black and white and there is certainly a sense of timelessness about a lot of them; in fact when I first saw a preview I thought they had been shot in around 1950 - so I was 30 years out!
One slightly confusing aspect to the exhibition was to what extent the subjects participated, other than being the subject of the photographs. It's not clear whether they were party to how Knorr planned to use the photographs.
After the exhibition we had a very successful session with Sharon Boothroyd where several students showed their work and were crtiqued by their fellow students. It was a very useful session and we had plenty of time to discuss the exhibition as wells our own work.