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FOCUS: Karen Yeomans

27 May 2020

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© Karen Yeomans

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 changed our lives as we knew it so did the practices of photographers albeit hopefully temporarily.  We speak with Karen Yeomans who responded to our call out for projects with some beautiful images that she  discovered whilst going back through her archives as a result of the lockdown. Well known for her sports imagery Karen presented a new study of a female Tailor that captured our eyes.  Read on for an insight into how Karen began her career and what inspires her focus of challenging the representation of women.


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© Karen Yeomans

Can you remember what prompted you to pick up a camera and what did you point it at?

At school I enjoyed art, however would get frustrated that I couldn’t express what I wanted in my paintings. A science teacher who was keen on photography made a darkroom for myself and another student and taught us black and white film photography in after school sessions. He got me started and I went on to study a photography degree where initially I wanted to shoot fashion. I loved the colour, drama, and storytelling if uncomfortable with the inherent negative messages communicated to women. My final degree show “beautifully damaged” was an expression of anti fashion intent to question what the media was saying to women.


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© Karen Yeomans


Did you ever assist?  If so what do you feel that you learned from this and would it be a route that you will still recommend / not recommend?

I came to London to assist after receiving a great degree and soon realised the learning had only just begun. The vocational and practical knowledge gained from assisting is a realistic experience of what you need to know in order to build the business of being a photographer. I worked with photographers in many disciplines and ultimately this offered a varied array of practical problem solving tools to take forward.



© Karen Yeomans


We’d love to hear more about your choice of subject matter that you shoot and the inspiration behind it.

My love of sport and games began at an early age and the enthusiasm to move my body drew me to yoga when needing support with a chronic illness and it’s associated problems. Sports and yoga are my medicine and continue to be a remedy throughout life’s challenges. Having lived and breathed its benefits, I naturally integrated these healing qualities of movement to my work. This passion for and deep understanding of the body is expressed in my images.

I notice that within sports and fitness lifestyle genre my peers are predominantly male, a similar situation to the representation of women in sport. This highlighted the need to celebrate these women and became the on-going series ‘Standing in the Light’. As the benefits of sport have enriched my life, I align to a social commitment to highlight the potential for all women to reach for their goals. It’s a clique but seeing is believing.


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© Karen Yeomans


How have you been utilising your time during lockdown?

With health vulnerabilities, when it was safe to do so and just before lockdown I moved back to my childhood home to be with my mother who also lives alone. During this time I’ve taken advantage of the positives, spending time with work I’ve created but in the rush of life had moved on to the next thing. I’ve revisited shoots from years ago looking for what is important to me now. Things look different with time and with a different perspective I’ve found treasure in images previously discounted. It has been a luxury to have the space to play with edits over days, put it down and come back to it, taking time to look into the detail. I’ve been pouring over my photographic identity, folio and site. Where I’m at, what’s important and where I want to go. Taking critique in portfolio calls with agents, playing and listening. That is not to say it’s not a challenge being freelance with no immediate prospect of work and a limited income but I’ve been flexible, helping others with design, admin and finishing images for clients from jobs in my archive. I feel lucky to have found satisfaction within what is and still in someway feel I’m moving forward.



© Karen Yeomans


What does the AOP mean to you? and what value do you personally place on being a member? 

As a student I aspired to being an AOP member and in the late 90s on moving to London, I regularly visited the gallery in Leonard Street to browse volumes and find photographers with whom I enquired about assisting work. As a member and particularly with the revival of F22 it’s become a community in which I’ve learnt, shared and made some great friendships. Members with more experience, experience in differing areas and those starting out, all sharing in discussion to grow and inspire. I’ve made some great friends with whom to debate and analyse. Since lockdown the support from and community of the AOP has proved invaluable.


View Karen's exhibition in Spotlight Standing in the Light


Visit Find a Photographer to see more of Karen's images


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