Yousuf Karsh was part of a grade 9 assignment on famous Canadians where I received a list of about 200 names and had to pick five to do a PowerPoint presentation on. I don’t remember who the other four were, but Karsh, him I remember. Part of it was how impressed I was with who he had photographed. If you were to look at a full list, it’s a who’s who of the 20th century, everyone from Queen Elizabeth II to Georgia O’Keefe to Pope John Paul II to Audrey Hepburn.
But the other part of it was how unassuming a person he seems to have been. How he truly just loved taking portraits and with how much passion and dedication he pursued doing so with. He also had a brilliant way with words. Any time I’ve read his version of how the photograph of Churchill was taken, I grin. I can’t even imagine how intimidating it must have been to have a growling, annoyed Churchill in the room and needing to take his picture.
“My chief joy is to photograph the great in heart, in mind, and in spirit, whether they be famous or humble.”
I’m very much a natural light photographer. Lighting class was kind of fun, but mostly frustrating. When needed, I can deal with flashes and lights and set up something to make things work, but I’d much rather not. Karsh, on the other hand, is known for his work with studio lights and one of his most iconic practices was to light his subject’s hands separately. I don’t know why, but that strikes me as something very beautiful, especially for those people he photographed that were artists. It especially hits me in the photograph of Humphrey Bogart, with his cigarette.
“Within every man and woman a secret is hidden, and as a photographer it is my task to reveal it if I can. The revelation, if it comes at all, will come in a small fraction of a second with an unconscious gesture, a gleam of the eye, a brief lifting of the mask that all humans wear to conceal their innermost selves from the world. In that fleeting interval of opportunity the photographer must act or lose his prize.”
Things I’m Loving: