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Inspiration. Rosalind Jana on Ida Kar


17 year old Rosalind Jana won the Vogue Talent Contest for writing in 2011.  She lives in the rolling hills of rural England, has a love for beautiful vintage clothes and rummaging in charity shops and is an inspiring young feminist. Her blog, Clothes Cameras and Coffee predominantly features original photography, styling and articles.
Rosalind is now a student and part-time freelance journalist, with a love of reading, theatre and excellent coffee.”

What constitutes an inspiring woman?

It’s perhaps an unhelpfully broad question. Inspiration is in the eye (or mind, or heart or responses) of the individual. There is no defined scale or quality, no absolute measure to rank one above another. That’s what makes finding someone inspiring for a very specific set of reasons so special.

For me, both the draw to and appreciation of photographer Ida Kar (1908 -1974) stems from the great capacity she had to frame characters, fix them in a shot, provide a quick glimpse into someone else’s life or vocation. Born in Russia to Armenian parents, with time spent in Cairo and Paris before she moved to London aged 37 in 1945, her early work focused on surrealism and experimentation. She forged connections in the arts world in the late 40s and many of her most accomplished photographs were taken during the 50s and 60s.

From Bertrand Russell to Marc Chagall, Man Ray and Doris Lessing below,

Ida Kar photographed plenty of the most innovative artists, thinkers and writers of the time.

Her photos have a deep, almost inky depth to them as light and shadow converge or contrast. Subjects are often pictured in situ, rooted in the paraphernalia of a studio, gallery or home environment. There is always a sense of context. Paintbrushes, canvases, sculpted heads, wire mesh. These are the frames surrounding her subjects.

Bridget Riley left stares up from a background of geometric lines; TS Eliot sits surrounded by shelves and stacks of books; a pensive Maggie Smith leans against the back of a chair.

Two words that often attach themselves to photography are ‘capture’ and ‘preserve’. Faces are captured by the lens and sensor, preserved on a strip of film or blown up in a print. The moment of taking is fleeting but the image often outlasts both the creator and her subject.

Perhaps part of the process of portrait photography is not only to document the sitter as they outwardly appear (which Kar so skillfully achieved), but also to catch something of the inner self – manifested in an expression, the placing of hands, a particular stance. 

Kar’s careful balance between internal and external gives her work an intriguing depth. There is both a curiosity and vivacity in her photos. They are utterly alive.


It’s this sense of life that I love the most. An hour spent poring over her work makes me want to put down the book, pick up my camera and seek out intriguing people. It reinforces my interest in the world’s richness, and potential. 



It’s so easy to get caught up in the camera-flash pace of twitter, blog views, Facebook debates and breaking news,

that it can be revitalizing to be reminded of the slower satisfaction of craft – be it painting, writing, sculpting, making or taking photographs.

Kar’s work not only stirs me to be more creative myself, but to be interested in others and what they do. There is so much out there to see and learn, so many to meet and make connections with. What a dazzling prospect that is.

Helena Ruboinstein below

Follow Rosalind on twitter HERE

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