Michael Chaplin and Karen Atkinson

michael chaplin, writer

During a series of sunny days in the summer of 2016 my photographer friend Karen Atkinson and I put on our boots and walked the bounds of Sid Chaplin's childhood and early adulthood, the corner of Durham he called his 'heartland', to take a snapshot of how the various places where he spent both are faring now, a century after his birth...

...A word about ponies. They were to be found more or less everywhere we went on our travels and Karen took photographs of all of them (more or less.)

Acknowledgement section of Hame My Durham:

My two principal collaborators, Karen Atkinson and Birtley Aris, whose skills have immeasurably enhanced this book.

I thank them for their good fellowship.

Nathan Wirth & Karen Atkinson

nathan wirth, photographer

Much of Karen’s work rises from the fickle play of nature— its crashing waves, its quiet beauty of water swirling and foaming along shorelines littered with rocks, its sweeping landscapes subject to the wrinkles of erosion, its lonely trees left to contemplate alone in pastures littered with grasses and stones, its twilights and dawns expressed in glorious Technicolor. Indeed, Karen catches the hush of a silence that one can only hear within the roar of waves and winds and the indifference of time sculpting the landscape with reckless abandon. Whether she is using digital or film, working with color or monochrome, pressing the shutter in real time or stretching out time through a long exposure, Karen always finds the perfect balance between light and shadow, a balance filled with a moody silence that reminds us of the sense of wonder that comes from letting all of life’s trappings melt away so that we can engage all that unfolds around us. It’s a matter of seeing, of really seeing. Karen really sees, and she shares with us what she has seen so we can see too.

"I find it hard to believe that I am the first person to write a testimonial about the wonderful talents of K, talents that manifest themselves in the sweeping dark tones of her landscapes and seascapes and the mellifluous melodies of her ethereal voice. Working with both film and digital cameras, K explores the crash of waves; the flow of the tides in all of their grand repetitions; the wistfulness of passing clouds; the melancholy beauty of the lonely tree lost in a sweeping landscape; the solid, quiet beauty of rocks by the sea and the road; the lovely stateliness of horses; the glory of the day's end resplendent in its majestic colors; the grainy tones of the everyday; and the time stopping wonderment of a long exposure. In  addition to her photographic and musical talents, K is also a kind, witty and generous human being! Thanks for sharing all of your wonderful work with us, K!"

Phil Murphy & Karen Atkinson

phil murphy, writer

The real achievement of Karen is the way she has taken a region and a backdrop that the uninitiated would expect to be bleak and unyielding and conjured out of them timeless images that reach back through millennia.  In frame after frame, her images suggest that time could have stopped or the picture seized at any point over a million years. She catches the vastness, the poetry and the very soul of these landscapes.  She manages to trap in each frame a moment when the emotions are assaulted by the sheer power of a landscape. She manages to turn the banal into the remarkable.  Many who have travelled through her home territory will ask themselves, “How have I missed these primeval places?  How can I share their power?”

But, if these pictures speak of stillness and timelessness, Karen also magically weaves movement into the portfolio too.  Rivers and seas are caught but remain in motion.  Clouds and sunsets are fixed, yet the viewer can still sense the movement.  There is mystery and intrigue too.  Who is that figure, face shrouded in shadow, beneath the rock?  And then there is the beauty out of bleakness: a derelict factory; a neglected horse in a field – transformed through the shutter into another breath-taking moment that, without Karen’s camera, would have slipped away, unperceived.