Karen, please share with us your journey on becoming the artist you are now.
Karen, I also noticed at your last open studio during the Uncommon Show 2011 two books out with your name on them as a contributor. Can you tell us about those books and your collaborative photographic contribution.
The first book is a collaboration with poet Catherine Owen. It is called “Cusp/detritus: an experiment in alleyways” and was published by Anvil Press in 2006. Catherine wrote incredible prose poems and a variety of other forms of poetry like lyrics and glosas about marginalized mentally ill and/ or drug-addicted street youth. I photographed discarded/ found objects in East Vancouver alleyways. I think it is particularly interesting that this book, created by two feminists, features primarily young men. It shows that men are also affected negatively by the oppression and violences of a hierarchical patriarchal system.
The second book is also a collaboration with two poets (Joe Rosenblatt and Catherine Owen) called ‘Dog’. It was published by Mansfeild Press in Toronto in 2008. ‘Dog’ originated with my series “Perros: Dogs of Central Havana”. When I was in Cuba in 2000, I photographed every dog I saw for a week. When Joe Rosenblatt saw these photographs, he was struck by how these dogs are all without humans (unlike in the First World where dogs are connected to their masters to such an extent that they almost become accessories!). Joe thought that these dogs represented the essence of dog and started to write sonnets about them. Catherine soon got on board and before you knew it, she and Joe were writing ‘conjoined sonnets’ where one of them would write the octet and the other would write the sextet. This had never been done before in Canadian poetry … if anywhere. Springing from my humble Cuban canines, the poets went wild and lunged out into Canis Major and Canis Minor and then down into Cerebes, the three-headed dog from Hell. It is a really fun and one-of-a-kind book!
(You can buy either book from me or from Anvil Press or Mansfield Press)
As your main source of lively hood you run a portrait business. Can you please tell us about that?
Yes. After exhibiting and publishing as a fine artist for 12 years, I decided to use the technical skills, sensitivities and insights to take portraits of people and, yes, dogs. I have developed a technique of photographing people where, though a process of conversation, recollection, memory and articulating beliefs and values, I am able to create portraits of people that document an authentic inner essence. And, with the dogs, well, I just love their personalities and aesthetic beauty!
I also do photo-restoration. Here are some before and after shots of a photograph I restored for a client:
I understand you are enrolled in the Self Employment Class at YMCA. What are the three top things you have learned about marketing yourself and promoting your business that you would share with our readers?
After teaching ESL for 10 years, I was given the opportunity to take a voluntary lay off and pursue my photography absolutely. I am currently enrolled in the New Ventures Self-Employment Program through the YMCA where I am learning everything about running my own business. It is helping me define and focus on what it is that makes me unique in the highly saturated Vancouver photographic portrait market and also learn how to market myself (and keep the books, of course, which is challenging for a distinctly right-brained person!).
What recent or upcoming shows/and or gallery representation can we look out for or go and see of your work?
Currently, I am focusing on my portrait business so don’t have any shows planned. But, of course, you can come and see me and my work at the Eastside Culture Crawl this year. My latest project, “Princess”, is still in process so I have no exhibits booked as of yet.
If someone reading this blog would like to see more of your work, visit an upcoming art show, hire your services or get a hold of you, how would they do so?
Karen, Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this interview!