In April 2011 I received an email from Vanessa Reid, an international stylist who works as a contributing fashion editor for Pop, inviting me to meet her in London order to discuss a possible collaboration for Pop magazine. I was at that time, working in India where I had been researching and photographing temples, palace sites, and animals for my ongoing India Song research project based on India cultural heritage. Niccolo Fano, my project manager was keen for me to take on the challenge of working in a fashion context with a very dynamic young fashion stylist.
Not especially keen to be interrupted from the work I was putting together from India, which entailed a long slow process of photographing and retouching; I was very reluctant. Yet Vanessa was persistent and Niccolo encouraged me. I felt challenged by the fashion context of a series of fashion portraits of contemporary women that that could be humorous and subversive. When Vanessa and I finally met at a restaurant on Marylebone High Street, I enthusiastically plunged into a new collaboration.
An initial proposition was made to Vanessa that we only photograph non European women to reflect the diversity of London which has been my home since 1977. It was in the midst of the rumblings of the Arab Spring and I was considering hijabs, burqas and shemaghs... The challenge was to find a location in central London large enough to accommodate about 20 different clothes arrangements over the period of two days. It also meant a total change in my working methodology which is usually solitary and slow.
We decided that we would quote my previous black and white work produced in the 1980s (Belgravia and Gentlemen) and I would bring it up to date referencing world events and the everyday through the use of text which was composed out of the answers to a questionnaire I sent around to the actresses/models after the photographic shoot.
Vanessa Reid lined up an international group of young powerful and influential women to photograph and the result was “Towards a Redefinition of a Lady” a version first published in the 2011 Autumn Issue 25 of Pop.
Karen Knorr 2013