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Karen McBride Manchester photographer on her 'Stripped Back' brand launch and exhibition

I've followed the work of Karen McBride for many years and watched as her photography has evolved through many different phases and styles. She is highly appreciated as a music photographer, and has photographed many artists, both established and unsigned. Her photographs have been used on many book and CD covers as well as posters. Recently her attention has been drawn to depicting the female body using a mixture of art and photography. She has launched a fashion brand, promoted in an event in Manchester in June 2015 named 'Stripped Back'. In this interview she tells me about it.

Karen McBride Stripped Back poster

Q1: You are known for your rock photography, why have you gone in a new direction with the images in this exhibition?

A: Iíve not exhibited for almost 8 years. the last one was at the Green Room now known as Gorilla. It was a great show and still gets talked about. Some elements of that show will be reflected in this one. Some of the prints that were on display will also be used in this exhibition.

Since then my personal life has changed substantially and so have I. This show is about whatís going on in my head and my heart, its not pandering to commercialism itís pandering to freedom of the soul, my soul.

Painting by Karen McBride based on Shireen Ashton
Painting by Karen McBride based on Shireen Ashton

Q: The images are a very interesting mixture of photography and painting. what do you think about the parallels and connections between these two media?

A: To me its a natural progression of where my work is going. I love both media. Each have their own beautiful quality, Iíve been painting on and off all my life, photography came later. When photography was invented it was considered a cheap alternative and not art at all. When digital cameras became widely available it was also thought it would cheapen photography, suddenly everyone became a photographer... Iím not saying what I do is art, but it does come from a deep appreciation of both. I love the idea of fusing both media. I think a piece of work should be appreciated for the content, the media used is just the vehicle.

Q: You are obviously fascinated as I am by the beauty of the female body, where does this fascination come from?

A: I am, aren't we all? I think women are fascinated by other women anyway, we've grown up admiring our mothers, we compare ourselves to our sisters, our best friends are generally women, as women we are not shy about admiring other women, and complementing them. It just so happens at the moment I seem to be photographing more women than men, simply because more women are contacting me.

Q: What would you say to those people who might disapprove of the images? A: Look away. How can anyone disapprove of beauty? If youíre going to judge the work then you need to start discovering yourself more, find your inner beauty then maybe you can enjoy the beauty of others. My work is celebratory.

Shireen by Karen McBride
Shireen Ashton photographed by Karen McBride

Q: Where did you meet Mary and Shireen and what is it like to work with them?

A: Shireen became aware of my work when I had a longish exhibit at Waterstones, Manchester. I met her through a mutual friend and we fell creatively in love. That was 8 years ago. I started photographing her and she fell in love with how I work. There is a strong mutual respect thing going on.

Mary came into my life through a FB call-out for models. I set up my T-shirt brand and needed a cool dudette, She wasnít chosen because of her name, she was chosen because she looked awesome, beautiful and edgy. We met and hit it off and from that weíve worked brilliantly together. We have a few projects lined up over the next few months... !

Both ladies are fantastic to work with and I love them both equally... I hope and want the work to enhance their own creativity. How shit would be life be without them now :)
Mixed media photograph / painting of Mary Joanna Coogan
Mixed media photograph / painting of Mary Joanna Coogan

Q: What are your plans for your fashion brand and where do you hope to take it?

A: Thatís simple I want to re-invent the T-shirt.

Q: Are you still taking rock photographs? Who have you been photographing lately?

A:Yes, I donít do as much live work as I used to, thatís because I donít shoot for agencies, so tend to only shoot live on commission. Iím doing mostly portraits these days, Iím shooting for MUK records and some independent artists at the moment. I love working with independents.

Q: Your press shot is quite revealing, why have you chosen to present yourself in this way?

Karen McBride publicity photo
Karen McBride publicity self-portrait

A:Is it revealing? Women show their breasts all the time. The self portrait was taken in keeping with my STRIPPED BACK exhibition. I felt it was important to be as honest as a camera would allow. Iím wearing my comfort bra most women will have one of these tucked away somewhere Iím sure :) ... and yeah I like my breasts, sometimes I wish they were smaller so I could wear a vest bra-less.. but they are what they are. This picture was the first one I took and it was a test shot to see if I got the lighting right, and the focus, I set the self timer plonked my ass on the stool and hoped some kind of picture would turn out.

Iíve had chance to reflect on it now and feel it has an honest quality to it, a bareness to it pardon the pun.

Many thanks to Karen McBride for the interview! Event time: Saturday 6 June, 2015, 7pm; Location The Wonder Inn, 29 Shudehill, Manchester, M4 2AF

Karen McBride www.karenmcbride.com

Mary Joanna Coogan www.facebook.com/MaryJoannaMusic

Shireen Ashton www.facebook.com/cheriebebeburlesquerevue

The Wonder Inn www.thewonderinn.co.uk

Storms cover artwork based on a photo of Mary Joanna Coogan by Karen McBride
Storms cover artwork based on a photo of Mary Joanna Coogan by Karen McBride

Mary Naylor shoot with blue paint
Mary Naylor photographed by Karen McBride

Written by Aidan O'Rourke
Posted/Updated 2015-05-22

Aidan O'RourkeAidan O'Rourke has been active in photography and online media since 1995. He has documented the development of the local area in his Eyewitness website (1997-2005) and as a contributor to books, publications and the Manchester Evening News. He runs his Eyewitness photography walks in Manchester, Liverpool and other locations. He offers one-to-one tuition in Photography and Languages. He is a high-level speaker of German and can offer photography walks and tours through the medium of German. Visit www.aidan.co.uk

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