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Ink on Paper: Catherine Karnow Exhibits 25 Years of Vietnam
Mar 3rd 2015 Posted in: Featured Posts, Interviews, Photographers 0
Anthony Fendler Catherine Karnow exhibition-quality printing Vietnam retrospective

Photographer Catherine Karnow works with The Flow’s Anthony Fendler to print the images for her upcoming retrospective in Vietnam. Photo © Taralynn Lawton.

Photographer Catherine Karnow has made a name for herself shooting surprising and thought-provoking images of Vietnam since 1990. Her new retrospective will open at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong March 9. 

Catherine Karnow is well known in Vietnam: She began shooting in the country in 1990, and calls the late General Giap a personal friend. In 1994, she was the only foreign journalist invited to accompany him privately to Dien Bien Phu, the site of the battle that won Vietnam independence from the French.

In the last 25 years, Catherine has completed numerous personal projects and magazine and social documentary assignments in Vietnam, including her most recent assignment for National Geographic Traveler, online and on newsstands now.

This spring, Catherine will present “Vietnam 25 Years From Darkness into Light.” The retrospective includes more than four dozen images, and up to 150 prints that will be hung in several gallery spaces. To have the images printed, Catherine came to The Image Flow.

The last of the dying aristocracy: Relatives of Emperor Bảo Đại stand in their weed-choked garden. Photo © Catherine Karnow.

The last of the dying aristocracy: Relatives of Emperor Bảo Đại stand in their weed-choked garden. Photo © Catherine Karnow.

Catherine said she happened upon The Image Flow one day when she needed to buy a hammer, but the hardware store wasn’t there anymore. “Instead I found this major photography center offering services such as printing, workshops, learning, a community gathering place, and a library of fabulous books,” she recalls. “I talked briefly with owner Stuart Schwartz about how we might work together in terms of my giving a lecture or a workshop, and how I could be part of this great photo community.”

Fast-forward to one year later and Catherine found herself in Vietnam with the opportunity to hang a show in several different galleries. “I emailed several fine art photographer friends asking them if they could suggest a good printer—the prints were going to be very large and I wanted extremely high quality.” Suggestions came in for printers around the world, from New Delhi to Singapore. “And then I got an email from my friend photographer Andy Freeberg who lives down the road from me in Mill Valley and he suggested The Image Flow.”

General Giap returns to the hut in the forest where he plotted the battle of Điện Biên Phủ. Photo © Catherine Karnow.

General Giap returns to the hut in the forest where he plotted the battle of Điện Biên Phủ. Photo © Catherine Karnow.

Catherine said the choice was immediately obvious. “I couldn’t believe I was thinking about using a printer on the other side of the world when I could work with a printer who’s across the street from yoga,” she laughed.

Besides the high quality work that Catherine knew The Image Flow could produce, she was excited about being able to collaborate during the process. She also appreciated the exhibition printing discount. “The Image Flow really encourages and helps photographers to have exhibits. They want to help you make it work.”

Catherine brought a collection of TIFF files that she thought were ready to print to digital imaging expert Anthony Fendler. “I was happily surprised that even though I had what I thought was a beautiful set of processed TIFFs, Tony asked me for the original slides and digital RAW files,” she said. “He rescanned the slides and started the process from the beginning. I was very impressed by his dedication to the project right from the start.”

War legacy: Twins born Siamese because of indirect Agent Orange exposure. Photo © Catherine Karnow.

War legacy: Twins born Siamese because of indirect Agent Orange exposure. Photo © Catherine Karnow.

Tony further impressed Catherine with his mastery of Photoshop, going deep into the image to bring out all the information from the RAW file or newly scanned slide.

“I quickly realized that I could completely put myself in his hands and that he would create the most beautiful file possible.”

The images are being printed on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Pearl paper using The Flow’s Epson Stylus Pro 9900. They are being printed on large sheets of paper that will be displayed behind glass without traditional window mats.

“Tony’s always got a can-do attitude. The prints are looking gorgeous, and The Flow is cheerfully meeting the intense deadline,” she added.

Suburban lifestyle: Helen Thanh enjoys a playdate with her friends. Photo © Catherine Karnow.

Suburban lifestyle: Helen Thanh enjoys a playdate with her friends. Photo © Catherine Karnow.

Catherine will hand-carry the first set of prints to Hong Kong this week, which will be hung at The Foreign Correspondents’ Club. The show will hang until March 31. A new set of prints will be taken to Vietnam for a show at the prestigious Art Vietnam Gallery April 9 – May 2 in Hanoi.

Catherine will teach a three-day San Francisco photography workshop at The Image Flow March 12 ­– 15 and a workshop in Umbria, Italy, in April.

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