Karen Knorr ‘Gentlemen’
The photographs of Karen Knorr’s series ‘Gentlemen’ (taken in the early 1980s) show the elite, (white?) male domain of exclusive gentlemen only clubs in London. This series shows the everyday life of this wealthy minority; the splendour of the surroundings, the formal suits, the paintings on the wall, the leather, the chandeliers, the silverware and the crystal.
However, Knorr’s images are accompanied by texts which make gentle fun of the situation portrayed. The text in the example below refers to the old practice of Butlers ironing the newspaper to prevent ink being transferred onto the gentlemen’s hands and results in a mocking of the privileged lifestyle by its reference to how far standards have fallen.
Similarly to Jane Austen’s opening sentence in Pride and Prejudice, ‘it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife’, Knorr’s statement that ‘newspapers are no longer ironed, coins no longer boiled. So far have standards fallen’ is an example an ironic statement where what is actually said is not exactly what is meant; both are examples of saying one thing when you mean another.
Image above is from here here
I am very aware, and interested in, both, class privilege and gender privilege and was immediately drawn to this series. The black and white gives a timeless feel to the photographs which compliments the longevity of the aristocratic and patriarchal structure of our society.
Thinking towards the next assignment ‘photographing the unseen’ I can see a parallel in this work. Not only do we ‘see’ the furniture, the clothing, the paintings and mirrors in these images but we also ‘see’ the codes of accepted practice. The formal layout of the dinner table, the arrangements of chairs, newspapers and books to facilitate learned conversation, the bust of Margaret Thatcher and the portrait of the queen to anchor the men in an environment of power and privilege. Interestingly we do see ‘important’ females in this setting but unfortunately they are relegated to being artistic interpretations only.
Hagan, S. (2017). Gentlemen by Karen Knorr review – eminently clubbable. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/oct/31/gentlemen-karen-knorr-london-clubs-mocking-rich-powerful [Accessed 19 Oct. 2017].