New York photographer KAREN MARSHALL documents American social issues. Since studying photography in the photo/film department at Hampshire College in the 1970s, she has worked on still narratives about the cultural landscape of the United States.
In 1985 she began a series of long-term projects that focus on the social and psychological lives of her subjects within the American landscape, most examining the coming of age of young people, primarily women. She often directs her camera at family life, including her Pennsylvania Dutch in-laws’ clan, part of a series entitled “Pennsylvania In-Laws.” In her documentary journey through American culture, Marshall has witnessed the struggling identity of a group of Navajo Indians and the demise of their earth-based culture in “Caretakers of the Earth: Navajo Resistance and Relocation.”
Marshall earned an MFA in New Media from the Transartinstitute/Danube University, an international program based in Krems, Austria. She is interested in establishing new frameworks for the documentary genre in the context of collaborative media and contemporary practices. Recently Marshall completed “Between Girls,” an installation that draws upon traditional photographs, book design software, and video and audio. The project focuses on meanings found within the distillation of time and the archive of memory by utilizing a variety of installation components. In this project, Marshall articulates the coming of age of a group of urban middle class teenagers, following them from high school into adulthood twenty-three years later.
She is the recipient of artist fellowships and sponsorships through the New York Foundation for the Arts, as well as grants and support from private foundations. Her work has been widely exhibited and is part of several collections. Her photographs have been published in the United States and abroad.
As a freelance photographer, her work spans many genres. Marshall’s distinctive style has the capacity to capture meaningful moments within a narrative frame. She has worked for editorial, corporate and advertising clients for the past twenty-five years.
Marshall lectures frequently and is a committed mentor. She teaches in the Documentary/Photojournalism Program at The International Center of Photography, at New York University, SUNY/Westchester Community College, and The Maine Media Workshops, among others. Along with offering students crucial advice on the editing and sequencing of images, Marshall works with private students in the development of their personal photography.
At the Center, Karen teaches Photography, levels 1, 2, and 3.
Examples of Karen Marshall’s work:
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I came of age during the feminist movement of the 1970’s. As a teenager I discovered my identity as a woman amongst the backdrop of a heightened sense of social awareness. Simultaneously, I fell in love with the narrative photograph because it had the ability to act as a witness, and distill transitory moments that could influence and reflect upon our memory and history.
Perhaps because of this confluence of pondering my womanhood while discovering my voice as a photographer, my practice has focused on the rituals and dynamics of contemporary familial relationships. Directing my camera to these internal perspectives, I have looked at the bonds and connections that culture and society, (and specifically women), have with one another.
Observing the foundation of women’s’ relationship to one another has been a focal point in my long-term narratives. The natural transitions that young women experience in the process of separating from family and creating surrogate communities are compelling. By looking at the archetypal aspects of coming of age, one can derive a universal understanding about the identity of women. The continual idea of the ‘frame’, what is inside it and what is left out, can act as a metaphor and a symbol of self-discovery.
I have dedicated the past three decades to exploring with still photographs and with audio and video installations, how human interaction depends on personal intimacy and the desire to belong to society. I believe that by reflecting on the strength and motivation of community and culture we can create a wider awareness of the world. The assiduous eye of the empathetic photographer can render contemplative observations that illuminate the everyday, offering insight into who and what we are. The spirit of human interaction depends on personal intimacy and the desire to belong to society.