Catherine Karnow

San Francisco-based photographer, Catherine Karnow has been a shooting since 1986. She specializes in people and culture, shooting for magazines, books, and a variety of corporate or individual clients.

In addition to shooting, Catherine’s is a leading educator, who gives workshops and presentations around the world. She is well-known in Vietnam and also fluent in French.

“I have been in a love affair with photography from day one, back in high school. Everything I know about photography has been from my own personal experience. I live and breathe photography. It is a beautiful way to see the world and connect with people. Discovering how much I love to teach is an extension of that joy. It is my job as an educator and a leader to help my students express what is inside, to guide them to express the beauty they see and feel. For me, there is nothing better than the sharing my passion, enthusiasm and love with both the people I am photographing and the guests I am teaching.”

Born and raised in Hong Kong, the daughter of an American journalist, San Francisco-based National Geographic photographer, Catherine Karnow graduated Brown University with honors degrees in Comparative Literature and Semiotics. 

Her work has appeared in National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian, French GEO and many other international books and magazines.  She has also participated in several Day in the Life series, Passage to Vietnam, Women in the Material World, Nine Days in the Kingdom, and others. She also gained unprecedented access to Prince Charles for her 2006 National Geographic feature, “Not Your Typical Radical.”

Catherine Karnow is known for her vibrant, emotional and sensitive style of photographing people. 
A notable life project has been her 30-years of photography of Vietnam. In 1994, she was the only non-Vietnamese photojournalist 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. And in 2013, she was the only foreigner to photograph up close the funeral and burial of General Giap.

Her 2015 retrospective: Vietnam 25 Years Documenting a Changing Country opened at the Art Vietnam gallery in Hanoi. Ambassador Ted Osius launched the show with an impassioned speech and  it became the most visited show at Vietnam’s most prestigious art gallery. Catherine has been profiled in a PBS documentary on ‘Art in Vietnam’. She was also the subject of a documentary on her friendship and coverage of General Giap, a ‘Talk Vietnam’ show, seen by over 10 million people world-wide. She is regularly profiled in the Vietnamese press. Her book, Vietnam 25 Years Documenting a Changing Country, is available in bookstores worldwide.

Catherine has been teaching photography since 1995; and has taught at the Maine Photo Workshops; Santa Fe Photo Workshops, the One School Goa, and many others. For National Geographic, she taught the Weekend Workshops in San Francisco, at Miraval in Tucson; and the National Geographic Traveler Seminar in cities all over the US. She also gives private workshops and teaching seminars world-wide, for private, corporate and editorial clients. Her own signature workshops in Umbria, Vietnam-Cambodia, and South India are unique in the roster of workshops.

Catherine also gives presentations. She has presented for National Geographic LIVE to audiences of 2500 people, as well as to numerous other groups world-wide. They are highly entertaining and educational.

Experience a South India Photo Workshop
January 15 – February 2, 2020 Spaces Available! Please join us!
To register and for more info, email

Experience an Italy Photo Workshop 
May 8 – 17, 2020 Spaces Available! Please join us!

Experience a Vietnam-Cambodia Photo Workshop
October 16 – Nov 1, 2019 FULL
October 16 – Nov 1, 2020 Spaces Available! Please join us!
To register and for more info, email

“I’ve taken many other photography trips, but Catherine’s are in a league of their own. The extraordinary people and places she provides access to make for a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. She’s a wonderful teacher and knows how to build confidence while helping you hone your skills no matter what level photographer you are. One of the best trips of my life – and I’ve traveled extensively. The people we met made the [Vietnam] workshop so much more than photographing interesting sites. ‘Workshop’ seems such an inadequate word for this experience. It is a journey for your life as well as your photography. Her workshop experiences are really about creating opportunities for interesting and deep interactions and relationships with people, and then using these opportunities to make meaningful photos.”

Agent Orange:  A Terrible Legacy

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