I was really excited last week to come across the blog of Canadian photographer Karen McRae. I had such a strong reaction to her images. These winter wrapped trees seemed so alone, bent and burdened, like they were waiting for something to change. There is also a sense of great strength and resilience, of pulling together. You can’t help but see the human and animal in them – condemned souls, or hard frozen mourners called to prayer.
On Karen’s blog, draw and shoot, you feel like you are there with her, in the moment, like you are being let into a secret. There are rushes of quiet, overwhelming beauty, dignity, elegance and strength – instantly compelling.
Karen was kind enough to share a few words with me about her work. I began by asking her what had first inspired her to pick up a camera..
“I was about 8 years old. I remember the reason distinctly, remember taking the specific photographs, the emotions behind the camera. We were moving over 2000 km across the country. I was taking pictures of my friends, attempting to capture some memories in black and white. It was winter and the ground was snow covered. My parents had given me an old film camera and I immediately fell in love with it.
That was decades ago, and somewhere I still have those first images. My love of photography has never waned.”
You seem to have an eye for the quiet strength and beauty in your subjects – your pictures really seem to stop time, something I loved about them – would you say that you have always had this kind of eye?
“I suppose the images that I’m drawn to have a quietness to them. Often I like to isolate things to bring our their form and beauty, but I also like a bit of an edge to an image, something that makes you question what’s going on or evokes an emotional response. Sometimes colour or a simple form is enough.”
Can you tell me a little more about your wrapped trees? Are they a common sight where you live?
“The wrapped trees in particular really fascinated me. I first saw them in the fall stretching along a newly completed highway and, as they were young they were wrapped to protect them during their first winter. It’s not that uncommon to see wrapped trees in our area due to the harsh winter conditions. What struck me about these particular trees was how figurative they look. Perhaps I just look at things differently but I think it would be hard to go by these and not relate their stature to the figure. They way they were grouped together and related to each other spatially just added to the fascination. It seemed to me they were in conversation. I couldn’t not photograph them.
When I did go back to photograph them the first time I felt like there was a bit of majesty to them. Everything was sparkling from freezing rain and there seemed to be this quiet energy among them. In the winter the images were much more solemn, it was a grey shadowless day and they were literally weighed down by the weight of the weather. Burdened. And the raggedness of their cloaks brought out more character in them, the shapes changing with weather.”
° ° ° ° °