Catherine Karnow

Born and raised in Hong Kong, the daughter of an American journalist, San Francisco-based photographer Catherine Karnow seems destined to have travel and photo-journalism at the center of her life. She studied photography in high school, and graduated Brown University with honors degrees in Comparative Literature and Semiotics.  After a brief career as a filmmaker – her film Brooklyn Bridge premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 1984 – she turned her attention to photography full time in 1986.

Catherine has covered Australian Aborigines; Bombay film stars; victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam; Russian “Old Believers” in Alaska; Greenwich, Connecticut high society; and an Albanian farm family.  In 1994, she was the only non-Vietnamese photo-journalist to accompany General Giap on his historic first return to the forest encampment in the northern Vietnam highlands from which he plotted the battle of Dien Bien Phu. She also gained unprecedented access to Prince Charles for her 2006 National Geographic feature, “Not Your Typical Radical.”

Her work appears in National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian, French & German GEO and other international publications.  She has also participated in several Day in the Life series, Passage to Vietnam, and Women in the Material World.  Catherine Karnow is known for her vibrant, emotional and sensitive style of photographing people.

Catherine has been teaching photography since 1995; and has taught at Maine Photo Workshops; Santa Fe Photo Workshops; and others. For National Geographic, she currently teaches Weekend Workshops in San Francisco, at Miraval in Tucson; and the National Geographic Traveler “Passion for Travel” Seminar in cities all over the US.  She also gives private workshops and teaching seminars all over the world.  Catherine is currently designing a boutique photo workshop to be held in Vietnam, October 2015.  Catherine’s 2015 Umbria Photo Workshop is now open for enrollment.  The 10-day photo workshop, aimed at all levels of photographers, focuses on the people, culture and food of Umbria.  This workshop is loads of fun, and full of eccentric, unique experiences, as well as yoga, yummy food and delicious wine.

“I have found that there are only a few occasions where you are lucky to meet an individual who profoundly influences your life. They not only impact what you do but they also impact who you are and what you can be. Catherine is one such person who fits this description for me. I feel blessed, extremely grateful and honored that I met her. Being able to study the true art of photography from Catherine at the Umbria workshop in 2013 and 2014 has greatly impacted how I can look at the world through my photography. Seeing how my photographs, that were taken at last year’s workshop, were received by people at this year’s workshop taught me the heart, soul and essence of photography in a very profound and everlasting way. Catherine was the one who guided me on this incredibly wonderful path and I will be forever grateful for this gift.” Darlene Lewis Chinn, Catherine Karnow Umbria Photo Workshop 2013, 2014

Catherine is available for one-on-one photo critiques via Skype or in person.  She takes an in-depth look into your images and provides invaluable guidance to help take your photography to the next level.  Book your image review with Catherine at

Agent Orange:  A Terrible Legacy

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