A curious sense of dislocation

by December 18, 2013
"The Maharaja's Apartment, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur", India Song (2008-2012), by Karen Knorr

“The Maharaja’s Apartment, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur”, India Song (2008-2012), by Karen Knorr

I remember first coming across Karen Knorr’s photos in 2011 and having two immediate thoughts. “My god, how did she get those animals in there?”, was the first. The second reflected an editor’s instinctual opportunism: “These pictures will go perfectly with the excerpt we’re running”, which happened to be a chapter from Jean-Christophe Bailly’s The Animal Side,  a book about the complex relationship between human beings and wild animals. It turns out that Knorr had taught an undergraduate course that touched on debates about the representation of animals, and she agreed the pairing would be a good one. See for yourself how it turned out: Bailly’s excerpt and Knorr’s photos are on pages 30-39 of our Summer 2011 issue.

So it was a treat to see Karen’s photos gracing the back page of the New York Times’ “T” Magazine this past week, a showcase for her most recent series of photographs. T’s Aaron Gell describes them:

In “India Song,” the latest series by the London-based photographer Karen Knorr, a sarus crane strikes a statuesque one-legged pose — a proud avian sentinel watching over a spun-sugar white marble chamber in Udaipur’s City Palace. A cheetah gazes contemplatively out the arched windows at the afternoon light like a Vermeer housemaid. A Bengal tiger luxuriates on a bed in the ornately decorated Mehrangarh Fort, the very model of feline hauteur…

In what Knorr calls “a memento mori for our species,” the sight of this resplendent menagerie — a lion-tailed macaque, a snowy egret, a hoopoe — inhabiting such grand interiors evokes a curious sense of dislocation, a realization that for all their affluence, power, taste and vanity, the well-born nobles of the Mughal Empire are long extinct.

See more of Karen’s work, including photographs from “India Song”, here: www.karenknorr.com