Karin Bareman

In conversation with Karin Bareman

From examining photographic representations of Appalachia to helping shape the tone of Autograph ABP’s exciting exhibitions programme, Karin Bareman is a busy woman.

When Karin Bareman saw a job opening at Autograph ABP two years ago she knew it was time to make the move from Amsterdam to London.

From October, 2015, she held the title of project and exhibitions manager. She recently progressed to the role of curatorial project manager, working alongside Renée Mussai (senior curator and head of archive) and Dr Mark Sealy (director).

“I had my eyes on the organisation for a while but they never had a suitable vacancy,” says Karin. “When something eventually came up I looked at the job and person specs and thought ‘wow, I match all of this’. So I went ahead and applied.”

Advocating for marginalised practices

Established in 1988 Autograph advocates for the inclusion of historically marginalised photographic practices.

The charity works internationally in photography and film, cultural identity, race representation and human rights.

It was this work that drew Karin to Autograph ABP.

“It is such an inspiring environment to work in. The kind of exhibitions we put on are one of a kind. What Autograph ABP does is unique, not just here in the UK but across the world.

“I am not aware of any other space that has such a specific remit. I am very proud and happy to be a part of it.

“What I also really enjoy is the way we work as a team and the audiences we reach with our work.”

Karin Bareman
Gideon Mendel: Dzhangal

From logistics to tours

So what does a curatorial project manager do?

“I assist my colleagues in the creation and production of the exhibitions we put on. Most of my work is about logistics, which includes printing, framing, transport and setting up.

“Additionally, my role encompasses assisting with limited edition print sales and with managing the archive here at Autograph. The collection contains about 5,000 items.”

Karin provides tours around the exhibitions and holds workshops with visiting students.

“We also have travelling exhibitions, so we have about six to eight exhibitions here and then what we try to do is get these exhibitions to other spaces, both in the UK and elsewhere around the world.”

An ambitious programme of commissions and events is Autograph’s signature. But how do they decide which exhibitions to feature?

“Mostly Renée and Mark conceptualise an overall programme for what we want to show over the next couple of years. When we start drilling down to the specifics, that is when I come in.”

With such a busy programme, sometimes Karin is more involved in the curatorial process. In particular, she mentions Gideon Mendel: Dzhangal, held at Autograph ABP’s Shoreditch gallery earlier this year.

He created a powerful installation using objects he gathered during visits to the Jungle refugee camp in Calais.

“I was involved with the exhibition from beginning to end,” says Karin.

“The exhibition was incredibly successful, drawing in more than 5000 visitors in a period of six weeks. The press coverage and the visitor feedback was just astounding.”

Milton Rogovin Research Fellowship

Outside of her work with Autograph, Karin is also working on a personal project researching the photographic representation of Appalachia.

She got the idea after looking at two different photography books on Appalachia.

The similarities were startling even though they were shot under completely different circumstances – one over a couple of decades and the other over a summer.

“If you were to cut up both books and mix them up I honestly couldn’t tell you which one was which,” she says.

“How do two completely different photographers go to the same place at different times and make the same body of work?”

With the photographers’ lenses specifically aimed at traditional mining communities, Karin described their style as ‘not quite poverty porn but not far off’.

“I wanted to write just a short article about this but then I started to look at other photographers who all seem to have fallen somewhat into the same trap.”

In 2015, Karin received the Milton Rogovin Research Fellowship from the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona, for her research.

She spent several months looking through their extensive archive, paying specific attention to bodies of work centering around Appalachia.

“I have also spent a lot of time in the British Library looking at other bodies of work so it is probably going to turn into a much bigger project than I originally planned,” she says.

Selecting the best

Karin is also one of the selectors for this year’s Royal Photographic Society International Photography Exhibition 160.

The exhibition calls for engaging, visually striking and inspiring work across all genres.

Winners will be exhibited in a nationwide touring exhibition starting in October.

“They did an initial cull of the submitted images. They then presented me and my fellow jurors with about 2,800 photographs for us each to whittle down to 150.”

The combined shortlist has been put forward for group judging in August. Karin says the variety of work submitted from the open call was fascinating.

“The majority of the images fell into the categories of travel, nature and wildlife photography.

“I found that my personal favourites where bodies of work containing still life, fashion or reportage imagery.”

Karin Bareman

Alongside her work at Autograph ABP, Karin Bareman writes extensively about photography.

Her essays have been published in titles including Foam Magazine, Unseen Magazine, Extra, and Of the Afternoon, and on online platforms American Suburb X and Photoworks.

From 2010 to 2015 she was assistant curator at Foam, the photography museum in Amsterdam.

To find out more about Karin’s work visit autograph-abp.co.uk.

Copy by Sheena Campbell.