Strom, Karen M.

Karen M. Strom, Sonoita, Arizona, USA

Karen Strom has spent her professional career as an astronomer. Born in 1941 in Fairfax, OK, she grew up in Henryetta, OK and graduated from Harvard College in 1964. She then worked at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory before moving with her husband, Steve, and her children to the State University of New York at Stony Brook. In 1972 they moved to the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, AZ where they studied star formation and galactic structure and renewed their interest in non-astronomical photography. In 1983 they moved to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, spending their time there studying star formation. Karen received an honorary Ph.D. in Astronomy in 1986 from Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica (INAOE) in Puebla, Mexico for her 40 years of research into star formation.
In 1998 the Stroms returned to Tucson where Steve is a member of the scientific staff at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. Karen decided that this was the appropriate time to retire from the academic life to pursue her new interests in the World Wide Web. She has spent the time since moving to Arizona as the webmaster for the World Wide Web Virtual Library - Index of American Indian Resources Online and for Storytellers: Native American Authors Online, a website for more than 50 Native American authors. She also constructed websites for indigenous artists and local non-profit organizations.
Karen began photographing (again) in 1978. She studied both the history of photography and silver and nonsilver photography in studio courses with Todd Walker at the University of Arizona. Her work has been exhibited widely throughout the United States and is held in several permanent collections. Recently she evaluated the new tools available and decided that she might finally be able to achieve the images that she had wanted to when she first began to seriously photograph in 1978. The images here are the result of that exploration.

Puzzles: Casa Blanca Inn

Karen M. Strom, Casa Blanca Inn, 45.4 x 30.5 cm, Archival Digital Print, ed. 3/20, 2010

“Making pictures is a way of creating worlds within the frame that provide almost the same richness and pleasure as direct experience of the world - yet the world itself is never quite as clear as in a good photograph.”  - Frank Gohlke

Why do I create pictures that are puzzles? The simple answer is "Puzzles make you think." The more complex answer devolves about what and how puzzles make you think. Puzzles make you examine the world and ask what it is you are really seeing. What are your assumptions and why? What are you ignoring? What lies beneath the surface? Are the issues physiological, that is, built into my brain structure, or cultural, taught to me by the society in which I grew up?

In order to live in this world, people acquire many modes of behavior that become automatic because they must repeatedly deal with the same situations. They deal automatically with everyday encounters. Puzzles make you look at the world in a different way. Puzzles require that you stop all your preprogrammed behavior and actually look deeply at something with new eyes. Only when you have managed this can you begin to analyze what it is that is before you.

I present you with puzzles that may at first appear to be ordinary photographs but which then require you to look more closely and to examine the image to find what is actually being shown to you. These images question the relationship of man made structures to the natural world.  I hope they all make you question the way you view the world.


Center for Fine Art Photography, Ft. Collins, CO, USA
Houston Museum of Fine Art. Houston, TX, USA
Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, AZ, USA
University of Oklahoma Art Museum, Norman, OK, USA
Arizona State University, Northlight Gallery, Tempe, AZ, USA
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California, USA


>>> photographers:network selection 2011

>>> Karen Strom