DPP Home Profiles Karen Ballard - A Life Of Adventure

Monday, January 7, 2008

Karen Ballard - A Life Of Adventure

Photographer Karen Ballard has been at the very center of modern history, and she has the pictures to prove it. Her work has been defined by a passion for life.

karen ballardPhotographer Karen Ballard has accomplished the things about which the rest of us dream, but she's surprisingly humble when asked what it's like to be a consistent witness to modern history. “I've been lucky on occasion to be out there on the front lines of world events and even luckier to record them with my camera. It's what I love doing, and it's a big part of what makes me tick.”

Her portfolio of work has graced the pages of highly esteemed periodicals, including the likes of Time, Newsweek, National Geographic Traveler and The New York Times and Washington Post Sunday Magazines. Ballard has traveled across the world in pursuit of her assignments, from India to Vietnam to China and through Europe.

“I was there when President-elect George W. Bush had an uncomfortable conversation with the person he defeated, Vice President Al Gore. A curious President Clinton watched them from the background. Minutes later, Bush was sworn in as president.”

“Left Behind,” the image in question, tells the complex story of the hotly contested election in a single frame. There are three clearly visible figures in the shot, but at that moment in time, those three figures happened to be the most important men in the world. The staging enhances the visceral feel of intense underlying stress, which would lead to the image being chosen by the White House News Photographers Association for First Place in 2001, as well as receiving numerous other awards.

“Knowing what you want to do is key,” Ballard points out. “I try to get assignments based on my interests. I first moved to Washington, D.C., when I was 23 and made it my base. Since then, I've developed relationships with many of the publications—newspapers, magazines, wire services—that cover Washington.

“I accompanied the ‘winning general' Tommy Franks as he arrived in Baghdad right after the American and coalition forces secured Iraq's capital,” she notes. “It turned out to be a fleeting high point in America's involvement with Iraq. Those pictures told the story of the moment, delivered images to the millions who weren't there, and in many cases, become more telling with time.”

An unbridled tenacity in achieving her dreams, plus the ability to dependably capture the essence of a story with only her images, has kept Ballard at the forefront of every field in which she has chosen to work, from political assignments to travel essays to portraits and film work.

“I shoot until I think I've made photos that not only tell the story, but give texture to what's happening around the story. Sometimes one frame tells the story, as is the case of ‘Left Behind,' but not always. What I'm really going for is a body of work, an essay. I try to educate myself on a subject and/or situations that I'm covering so that I'll have some idea of what might conceivably happen before it actually does.”


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