Karen Yeomans is an award-winning freelance photographer on a mission to help women be seen and support the rise of women’s sport. Based in North London, her clients include major names in the sporting sphere like Red Bull, Invictus and Reebok.
Sport has always been a constant in her life and she hoped to use her camera to inspire others to get involved in sport and achieve a deeper understanding of the truly amazing things the human body is capable of.
Today, we say down with her to get a look behind the lens and explore the passion behind the pictures.
How did you get into the industry?
At school I enjoyed art, however, would get frustrated that I couldn’t express what I wanted in my paintings. A science teacher who was keen on photography made a darkroom for me and another student and taught us black and white film photography in after school sessions. He got me started and I went on to study a photography degree where initially I wanted to shoot fashion.
I loved the colour, drama, and storytelling. However uncomfortable with the inherent negative messages communicated to women; my final degree show “beautifully damaged” was an expression of anti-fashion intent to question what the media was saying to women.
Where are you based now and who do you work for?
Based in London I work freelance, for agencies, brands, publishing, and SME’s. My love of sport and games began at an early age and the enthusiasm to move my body drew me to yoga when needing support with a chronic illness.
Sports and yoga are my medicine and continue to be a remedy throughout life’s challenges. Having lived and breathed its benefits, I naturally integrated these healing qualities of movement to my work. This passion for and deep understanding of the body is expressed in my images.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
I’m tuned into environmental and social politics. My fire drives me to stand up for change, to make a difference towards gender parity, the environment, and injustices around me. In a parallel universe I probably would have been a politician.
Can you explain your creative process? What makes it unique?
I am an early riser and make time for meditation. Ideas and decisions come subconsciously during sleep, and I wake with ideas. I listen to podcasts and political commentary and am interested by human stories. I believe in planning thoroughly and creating space to settle my mind prior to shooting.
With the space to run through a story board in my mind, any technical considerations, check and clean my equipment. Then on shoot days I trust in the preparation and let everything flow. Even if it doesn’t turn out exactly as I thought it would I do my best to prevent stress to cramp creativity and trust in the process.
How would you describe your style?
I celebrate the power of action to incite change and was recently awarded The Women’s Sport Trust imagery of the year. In my personal projects I embrace both women’s and ‘grass roots’ sporting initiatives. These subjects reveal the dedication behind the physical aesthetic, championing a valuable ethos for life. My mission is to increase the visibility of women in sport and a female point view is critical to that narrative.
Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
I would love my work to sit equally alongside photographers like Carlos Serrao and David Clerihew. Looking at the bar they reach in the standard of their work is something I aspire to. I believe it’s important to promote a gender-equal voice in front, and behind the camera.
What tips would you give to aspiring creatives looking for work?
Keep looking for your why, your passion holds the key. Keep making and creating. Get up and go again and again. Keep going!
What tips would you give to other professionals to get more clients?
Relationships are key. Be efficient and fun but most importantly be you.
What kind of tools/kit/software could you not do without?
Adobe creative cloud, Mac, Nikon, Profoto. My dog and yoga.
What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?
I mentor on programs for other female photographers and hope that offering my experience might expatiate their journey toward their goals. I give talks at educational institutions and am also a member of the F22 working group, the female arm of the Association of Photographers, whose aim is to protect, promote and inspire.
What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?
In 2018 my work with sports women was awarded imagery of the year by The Women’s Sport Trust.
What is the one thing that you would change about the industry?
More opportunities and commitment to improving the gender balance within technical image-making roles. Pathways to initiate female makers to decision makers with opportunity to learn their craft and refine their skill.
On a more general media point, although the visibility of women involved in the media and broadcasting is increasing, it appears more technical and operational roles could benefit from a further balanced gender voice. Opportunity perceived as more attainable if and increasing number of women are seen to flourish.
Any websites, books or resources you would recommend?
The association of photographers: https://www.the-aop.org/
The Photographers Gallery: https://thephotographersgallery.org.uk