Nearly two decades ago, Jean Karotkin launched her career as a documentary photographer with a series of black and white portraits of breast cancer survivors. Karotkin, who also underwent treatment for the disease, wanted to document the ways female beauty can be enhanced by angry scars and indomitable courage. Her images, which she self-published in the collection Body & Soul, garnered national recognition from the Dallas Morning News; Oprah magazine; Texas Monthly; CNN; NPR; and on NBCs Today Show with Ann Curry. The portraits were exhibited at The Houston Center for Photography and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth. Karotkin has since produced numerous other bodies of work celebrating women and disrupting prevailing notions of beauty. With her newest series, Gymnopédies, she exposes the counterintuitive nature of botanicals, proving flowers can be their most colorful in black and white. Karotkin is a Texas gal living in New York City. She is currently working on her second book, (In)Sight, featuring a series of black and white portraits of some of the most eminent female photographers and curators working today.
Jean Karotkin’s series of botanical portraits takes its name from a trio of piano compositions by 19th century French composer Erik Satie. Void of connotation, the unusual title freed Satie from stylistic constraints and gifted his audience a new experience of music. Karotkin’s Gymnopédies encourage a similar foray in the realm of flower photography. The artist disavows context and convention, eschewing sentimentality in favor of heady tonal interplay. The chiaroscuro both abstracts and anthropomorphizes, exposing some of nature’s more subversive personalities. As with Satie’s work, these images pacify through dramatic texture, emotional provocation and a welcomed dissonance. They are innocent and erotic still lifes in motion.