Karen Mandau

Born in communist East Germany, I have left my hometown at the age of 18 to follow my big passion, travelling. 

After some time in New York I moved to Paris, and have lived and worked there since. 

I enjoy international assignments and spend part of my year travelling and telling stories of the extraordinary ordinary people I meet.

I discovered my love for photography as a teenager, but didn't make it my full time activity until many years later. 

The human being fascinates me, and I'm moved by the emotions my subjects accept to share with me. As a portraitist i'm passionate about bringing out that little detail, that little expression that makes a person unique.

My perception of beauty has little to do with a person's appearance.


For me beauty is in the soul, in having survived many hardships and still having a gentle heart, beauty is in a person's generosity, in their simplicity and their honesty. 

Through my lens, I try to capture the diversity and the complexity  of human beauty. 

In my mixed media art I work around the concept that it's not because something has been broken that its value decreases. I believe quite the opposite. My approach is closely inspired by the japanese practice of Kintsugi, where broken pottery was repaired by pouring gold into the cracks, making it more valuable and more beautiful than it was before it broke. They enhanced an object's value and perceived beauty not by trying to conceal its breakage, but by highlighting it. 

I photograph broken things, worn down things, things that nobody looks at,  and turn them into art through the medium of embroidery. I fill their cracks with a different type of gold, to show that in fact they are beautiful if we just take the time to look at them. 

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