Memphis Botanic Garden is excited to present one of Memphis’s finest photojournalists! Karen Pulfer Focht was a photojournalist with the Commercial Appeal for 25 years and was able to change lives and policy through the power of her photographs. Many of her images are difficult because real-life news is often difficult, but Karen holds each story and the people in them, very carefully and lovingly in her frame.
Karen has the eye and knowledge to look for the moment that exudes the most emotion. Perhaps it is a sixth sense, unique to photographers, that allows her to anticipate when it's coming. She says what she loves most about photography is that there are, “really authentic, magical moments unfolding in time and I’m lucky enough to be able to capture it”. She admits that it takes bravery to be a photojournalist. She says it’s difficult not to feel apologetic for looking in as an outsider, upon very emotionally intense, private moments; which are often pain filled. It’s obvious that Karen’s empathy and awareness of others makes this possible—in addition to her immense courage!
This exhibit talks about how Karen must restore herself in the beauty of nature to balance out the rigors of photojournalism. The West Gallery Hall is exhibiting Karen's nature images and the East Gallery Hall is a trip through memory lane; showing award winning, policy changing stories. All of them are interesting stories! I encourage you to come to the opening reception for this exhibit, meet Karen and hear some of the stories behind these images.
About The Show from Karen Pulfer Focht:
"For more than 25 years, I was blessed with a front row seat to life in Memphis. Being a photojournalist is the greatest job in the world, capturing fleeting moments in time. Photographing the stories of the people in Memphis and being part of their lives, often as some of their most important experiences are unfolding, is a privilege and a responsibility. Working for a newspaper opens doors. My position brought me into the White House, to New Zealand, China, France and Peru. I got the chance to meet all sorts of people, the powerful and the powerless, and experience extraordinary things every day.
I sometimes got to go where everyone wanted to go and I also went where no one wanted to go. I saw a lot of pain. You have to be brave to be a photojournalist. I saw many people on the worst days of their lives, as they experienced or recalled the worst possible things.
Witnessing the pain, sorrow, crime and poverty so intimately does take a toll on one's soul. So, I restore my soul in nature. I find respite in seeking and sharing the beauty that lies just under the surface. You have to have the eyes to see it."
About Karen Pulfer Focht:
Karen Pulfer Focht has the eye of a journalist and the soul of a poet.
Her photographs reflect reality but in a way that both informs and inspires. She captures moments and mood, motion and emotion, fact and truth. It's not just her artistry at work here, it's her empathy. She sees with her heart, and when we look at her photographs, so do we. Karen spent more than 25 years covering the people of Memphis for The Commercial Appeal newspaper. She is currently a self-employed photojournalist, working for national and international newspapers and magazines and the Associated Press. She also creates heirloom portraits of people and pets, documentary-style, in their own environments and gallery art. She has received innumerable awards. Most notably, she was presented with the Society of Professional Journalists' Medallion of Distinguished Service to the American People for her series on infant mortality in Memphis. For this project, she also was awarded the Casey Foundation Medal for Meritorious Journalism. Spurred by that series in the Commercial Appeal, the Governor of Tennessee began a program to battle the infant mortality problem. "What made this story real was pictures of little caskets lined up like little shoeboxes. This is journalism at its best," the Governor said. Karen is a wife and mother of three children, she has two dogs, and is an avid gardner. She enjoys music and has documented the famous Memphis music scene with album covers and news photos. She is learning to play the blues harmonica and the ukelele.
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