Faces of womenKaren Carpenter Baker brings varied lives into focus.

"Karen Carpenter Baker's impulse to document women's lives may be an inheritance from parents who published a Kansas newspaper for years. I came from a family that was constantly asking questions of people, Baker says. Although at the time it did make bringing boyfriends home somewhat difficult, today I see wanting to know and to document as natural expressions of curiosity. Baker's photographs of women in the context of their lives - surrounded by children, furniture, the tools of their trades - are on view through August at the Harbour House Pub. Although her subjects range from the familiar to the exotic, from telecommuting moms to divers, all the women are presented in an evenhanded manner that suggests parity.One blue-jeaned subject sits hunched with elbows planted on knees comfortably apart. The face of this middle-aged woman who crewed on yachts for 20 years is not only weatherbeaten, but scored by time and travail.I'd rather have someone laughing and wearing their old boots than putting on a calculated front, Baker says. If someone shows me their facade, I want to dig beneath it.However, her work does not give one the sense that the artist looks for secrets and vulnerabilities. Her instinct is only to penetrate the fantasy-construct to find the life, not to expose weaknesses.Baker would not be hiding in the bathroom closet, metaphorically, camera in hand. Her preferred venue might well be the kitchen table over coffee.Similarly, Baker avoids what she regards as the distraction and decoration of color, shooting exclusively in black-and-white to focus on the subject.Baker became interested in photography when she and her husband lived in Sicily for a year in the late 1990s. It was a hard to live there as a woman, as an American, Baker says. They were intrigued, but we stuck out like sore thumbs. Obviously I didn't know enough to cook, because my husband was thin. They'd feed him these great pasta dishes. Also, I didn't clean the outside of my door enough. But they wouldn't come to me- they'd complain to my husband.For her part, Baker was examining the Sicilians, and what intrigued her were the worn, deeply creased faces. She had taken photographs for years as a serious amateur.Now, frustrated with her lack of technical ability, she decided to get professional training.When she returned to the states, she enrolled in the Hallmark Institute in Turner's Falls, Mass., an intensive 10-month program in photography. There were only 100 students and six instructors, Baker says. It was total immersion, 12 hours a day.Baker became a commercial photographer, using her talent for looking deeply into her subjects to do family portraits. Now, Baker finds her focus shifting from the commercial.I'm slowly moving from doing portraiture on Bainbridge to doing more documentary projects, she says. I'm always looking for a subject.* * * * *Karen Carpenter baker's portraits of women, accompanied by short biographies of each, are on view at the Harbour House Pub through August. Call 780-2214 for more information. "

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