Karen Mason Blair

The Flannel Years Photo Exhibition At Treason Gallery

A chat with Photographer Karen Mason-Blair and Matt from Treason Gallery

June 1, 2016

If you wanna laugh until your belly hurts, hang out with Karen Mason Blair. The 'fan girl with a camera' is a description that falls short of crediting her with the artistry that results from her photography, but it has a nice ring to it so that's what we'll go with. 

Already an accomplished photographer who had paid her dues in Los Angeles before her friends bands were really blowing up, she returned home to Seattle just in time to capture it on film. The sort of fortunate coincidence that makes for good fiction, but few of us experience in real life.

We spent a couple of days hanging out and sharing stories of the good ‘ol days, the 'flannel years' if you will. I learned some fascinating details about the artists I admired as a youth. Most of which can be heard in this chat we recorded. Some other interesting details I’ll keep to myself, as deep dark secrets should be.

Listen to the full interview below, and scroll down to see some of the awesome images she captured:

Karen has put together an exhibition called 'The Flannel Years' that will focus primarily on the underground Grunge music scene from 1990 - 1991. The pre-fame, on-the-rise-to-stardom period of the Grunge era. A few highlights are the only shots taken at Pearl Jam’s first show as Mookie Blaylock, Nirvana in Santa hats, and Jerry Cantrell sharing a mic with Bret Michaels of Poison. 

Nostalgic for those of us who were there, and inspiring for those who came after, expect only smiles and the sharing of epic tales at Treason Gallery for the Flannel Years Exhibition, June 4 - 12.


Interview with Karen:

Zach: Are you coming across rolls of film that have never even been touched or developed?

Karen: I did find some of those but mostly I shot so much imagery that it’s beyond your mind to remember. I have pictures of Pearl Jams first concert, I knew I shot their first concert but I didn’t realize no one else had. So I’m pretty much the only person that has photos from their first concert.

Zach: How did you know? The PJ20 book came out and there were no shots of their first concert?

Karen: Exactly! And I went to the movie and there were no shots. Eddie’s standing in his hallway of his house pointing at this photo and he says “This is a photo from the 3rd concert.” I’m like 3rd concert? I shot their first concert. And then the book came out and the photographer is quoted saying he had left his camera in the car. And I’m like oh my gosh I have these photos!

Zach: Did you have to dig deep to find those?

Karen: What I had done is filed them. Because they didn’t have a band name I wrote on my folder and called it ‘New Love’, like new Mother Love Bone. (Pearl Jam played that concert under the name Mookie Blaylock)But I just never did anything with the photos, I just filed them.

Zach: But you have done some other things with photos that we have seen. What are some of your biggest claim-to-fame photos that everybody’s seen?

Karen: My picture of Kurt Cobain and Krist Novocelic is on the In Utero album. And I think my picture of Alice in Chains went viral, of them in an elevator in my studio.

Zach: I hardly recognized any of your early pictures of Layne with long hair.

Karen: Right! That’s how I remember him, with the long hair.

Zach: I’ve had a sneak peek at some of these and one of my favorites is Jerry Cantrell with Bret Michaels from Poison.

Karen: Yeah Poison was booked here in Seattle… they asked Alice In Chains to open the show and they were so excited! Towards the end of the nights they all came out on stage and played Kiss ‘Rock and Roll all Night’, and that’s when I took these photos of Poison with Alice in Chains. It’s like goodbye 80’s hello ‘90’s!

To hear more banter with Karen, and a chat with Matt about Treason Gallery listen to the full interview.


Alice In Chains
Karen Mason Blair

Alice In Chains
Karen Mason Blair

Chris Cornell
Karen Mason Blair

Mother Love Bone
Karen Mason Blair

Karen Mason Blair

Pearl Jam
Karen Mason Blair

Screaming Trees
Karen Mason Blair

Karen Mason Blair

The Flannel Years
Karen Mason Blair