“Another Way of Telling” showcases almost 100 works from the rich, dynamic careers of Anna Fox and Karen Knorr, two leading documentary photographers in the UK. In their work, acerbic wit is brought to sharp social commentary on subjects that are seen through two highly individual perspectives that wrap in a warm dose of humor the photographers’ penetrating insight into the issues of our times. The exhibition includes selections from representative themes in each of their bodies of work. Additionally, it features entire series that represent photo essays on the subject of class, working environments, and self-awareness, presented from distinct, alternative perspectives. Fine examples are Anna Fox’s two series Work Stations, and Basingstoke, displayed in contrast to Karen Knorr’s series titled Belgravia, all of which highlight the gulf in class attitudes. Karen Knorr’s Punks, produced together with Swiss photographer Olivier Richon, documented the first generation of the punk music movement in the UK in the mid-1970s.
In her more recent work, Karen Knorr constructs scenes for her photographs from the real and virtual worlds to produce the series Fables and India Song. In her recent work, Anna Fox continues to explore stereotypes that have become entrenched in lifestyle magazines, that underscore contemporary aspirations, both British in specific, and by example in today’s ubiquitous consumer-driven world. As described by British photo critic Sean O’Hagan, her ‘subject matter is the ordinary and the everyday,’ but what makes the resulting images striking is how she ‘approaches it with an artist's eye for the absurd and the revealing.’ Through these works we see the photographers’ thinking about culture, gender, environment, and nature.
Since the late 1970s, there has been a volume of activity in the field of documentary photography in the UK, which both builds upon and stands as a reaction to the documentary tradition. Photography played an incisive part in constructing a British documentary movement from the mid 20th-century, that began in 19th-century realist literature (for example, Charles Dickens, George Eliot), soon extended to film (figures like John Grierson) and, in time, to television. The spirit of questioning and re-invention that characterized the particular period of New, or Expanded Documentary that emerged from the 1980s, was new in that it began to draw on strategies from contemporary art, primarily in its questioning and play with notions of authenticity and truth. That play, in terms of the mix of carefully observed reality and consciously constructed illusions, is embodied in the work of Anna Fox and Karen Knorr, described here as ‘another way of telling’.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHERS
Anna Fox (b. 1961, Alton, UK) graduated from West Surrey College of Art and Design College in 1986. She began working with photography in the early 1980s, emerging as one of the most exciting color documentary photographers of the period. Influenced by the emergence of a new British documentary tradition – the wave of new colorists such as Paul Graham and Martin Parr – her fascinating study of the bizarre and the ordinariness in daily life in Britain life resulted in a combination of social observation with highly personal diary projects. Anna is concurrently a professor of photography at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham.
Karen Knorr (USA / UK) was born in Germany and in the 1960’s grew up in San Juan Puerto Rico. In the 1970s, she moved to the UK where she has lived ever since. Knorr’s photography explores cultural heritage and its ideological underpinnings. Questions concerning post-colonialism and its relationship to aesthetics have permeated her photographic work since the 1980’s. Karen ’s work developed a critical and playful dialogue with documentary photography using different visual and textual strategies to explore her chosen subject matter that ranges from the family and lifestyle to the animal and its representation in the museum context. Karen has been a professor of photography at the University for the Creative Arts since 2010.
ABOUT THE CURATOR
Hao Xu (b. 1987) is a photographer, artist, writer and curator based in Shanghai. He is a contributing writer for The Art Newspaper China. He is a contributor for the photography study archive Ray Art Center and to Chinese Photography Magazine etc.
As an artist, in recent years, he has participated in exhibitions in China and Europe, including PhotoFairs Shanghai, Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival and FORMAT International Photography Festival in the UK. His self-published editions have been exhibited in The London Art Book Fair, Arts Libris Barcelona Feria International Art Book Fair and more. His writing and research focuses on queer theory and identity, landscape and typology, and camera-less photography using alternative techniques.
“Another Way of Telling” is supported by the British Council, and is one of the British Council in China’s “Inspiring Women in the Arts” programme. “Inspiring Women in the Arts” celebrates the achievements of female artists and inspires young women about the world of the creative industries, to raise confidence and aspirations, and to enable them to make more informed choices about their careers. “Another Way of Telling” also coincides with the focus on photography led by PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai, which opens in September 2018.
“Another Way of Telling” will tour to further venues including Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing; OCAT Xi’an, Xi’an, and several other venues. We would like to thank our partner venues for joining us in this exciting venture.
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. It creates friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. This is done by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries it works with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.
The British Council works with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year it reaches over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications. Founded in 1934, it is a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body.
The British Council operates as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy in Beijing and Cultural and Education Section of the British Consulate-General in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chongqing. Its Exams work and English Centres across China operate as Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprises.