Western Canada: Karen Asher
I wasn’t familiar with Karen Asher’s work until recently. I wanted to make sure I knew of all the documentary photographers currently making work in Western Canada, so I reached out to a number of folks who might help me look under some rocks for things i’d missed. The folks at Blackflash Magazine in Manitoba who passed along her name and with delight I became acquainted with her work.
Asher’s work plays on the idea of isolation, created through distance but exasperated by the harsh weather. Distance and weather have both become key fixtures of Canadian identity, especially in the frigid west. Furthermore, her work exemplifies the surreal moments of everyday life that one finds when they spend enough time scouring the streets of urban environments. Her work follows a long line of street photographers in North America who view the street as an honest stage.
Karen Asher is an analog photo artist from Winnipeg, Canada, whose work explores her obsession with stress, absurdity and the human condition. She received her BFA Honours in photography from the University of Manitoba in 2009.
If you spend enough time in one small city it turns into a backdrop—an infrastructure for our experiences. As I wander around town, I seek intriguing subjects to photograph in a light that is authentic to their character.
My hometown provides this backdrop and offers an endless resource of diversity to capture. Winnipeg’s isolation, extreme climate, and the tough and tender disposition of the city’s people create an impulsive undertone. The conflicts in my photographs are born of an ambiguity that reflects these unusual qualities I encounter. I am thrilled to be able to capture a surreal image from an ordinary moment.
The ridiculous also takes center stage, and an odd combination of lavishness and minimalism often prevails. When I take regular subjects and capture them in a grandiose, heightened reality, it is as if their intrinsic self-worth has been confirmed. These moments are highly provocative. Aware of the camera, the subjects’ resulting vulnerability is brutally honest. Capturing this moment usually requires an equal balance of comfort and tension.
It is the awkward imbalances and perplexities that I try to capture throughout my work.
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