Karen Ward (born 1967) is a portrait and documentary photographer based in the North East of England. She originally studied Fine Art (Painting) in the 1990’s. However, following a period in which she found herself a homeless single parent, it became necessary to find regular, paid employment and she subsequently followed a career in holistic therapy.
The desire to make pictures and tell stories remained however, and in 2009 she embarked on an applied photography course. This was followed by a Masters Degree in Photography, which she completed in 2013.
Her documentary work explores issues to do with place, belonging, childhood and immediate family. Her approach to portraiture centres on individual experience and personal relationships.
HILL STREET CHRONICLES
"I long to have such a memorial of every being dear to me in the world. It is not merely the likeness which is precious in such cases- but the association and nearness involved in the thing. The fact of the shadow of the person lying there fixed forever." Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1843)
I began photographing my family in 2009, the motivations behind which are complex, tangled and often difficult to explain, even to myself. I acutely experience the passing of time and with its passing, loss. I feel I am at war with time. It is a war that I cannot possibly win, but the camera is my weapon and I won’t go down without a fight. My camera allows me to express subconscious feelings about motherhood and the growth of my children. These feelings are found in the small, unnoticed moments that time sweeps away. The familial bonds, that both tether and free. The claustrophobia, the adoration, the love, fears and hopes that come with being a mother. Being a parent makes you vulnerable and it is this vulnerability that I try to express in my photography.
There is an image of my daughter, Helen after she suffered a broken arm, saving a goal in a football match. In the months prior to the accident I had been having recurring nightmares that involved the two of us. The scenario differed slightly from dream to dream, but the premise was always the same. We were always in situations of extreme danger that I had to protect her from. In one we were pursued through woods by the Gestapo, in another we were trapped in a dark hotel with zombies. There was one dream involving an assassin and another where she fell off a pier and I had to save her from drowning.
I realised that these dreams were an expression of my subconscious fears regarding my daughters growing independence and the need to afford her more freedom and let go a little. The broken arm photograph seemed to crystallise those fears.
Each image is like this, a stopping of time, pinning down feelings and emotions that would otherwise be lost. There is one of my eldest daughter, perhaps 21 at the time, She is sitting in just jeans, hung over from a heavy night out. There is a fragile look about her, half naked and intense. I’d lain awake half the night waiting to hear her key in the door, to know she was home safe. I’m reminded that though she’s an adult she is still my baby, with the power to make me feel afraid.
I am available for commissions, editorial and commercial work.
© 2008-2017 Karen Ward