Research notes – Revisiting Karen Knorr’s Gentlemen

I first looked at Karen Knorr’s work in the context of my first OCA course, Expressing Your Vision. My initial notes can be found in here.

Gentlemen (link) is a series of photographs mostly taken inside gentlemen’s clubs in London. The photographs are accompanied by text, constructed by Knorr from parliamentary speeches and newspaper articles. The captions include references to issues such as privilege, exceptionalism, nostalgia, misogyny and warmongering. The images are not always related to the captions, and the two sets of information, images and text, provide alternative narratives that complement each other and almost run in parallel. There are some vague references to the text in some of the images, as if the photographer was attempting to keep the two systems on a tight leash, to prevent text and images to completely break away from each other. I can see those connections in images like “The time has come” (link), where references about “playing the trump cards” can be linked, perhaps ironically, to the feeble-looking house of cards shown in the picture. In some other cases, the references are more direct, as in “men are interested” (link), where a reference to women being more interested in service is accompanying by the photograph of a male butler. However, while the text may provide an insight into a line of thinking that is perhaps as outdated as the idea of gentlemen’s club, the images themselves portray a world with too much time to spare, where people just kill time by reading or eating, or napping and do not much else. I thought originally, when I first looked at this work, that the pictures were all carefully staged. I still believe this may be the case, but I am now left wondering if Knorr actually used actors to stage the images, rather than genuine members and staffers of the relevant clubs, as the images themselves convey a message which is far from flattering to its subject matter.






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