Self Portrait 1938 – Library and Archives Canada
“Within every man and woman a secret is hidden, and as a photographer it is my task to reveal it if I can.” – Yousuf Karsh
Yousuf Karsh is an iconic figure in portrait photography. His session with Winston Churchill will go down in history as one of the great moments in photography. The crowd was just gaga for the Audrey Hepburn image, which was indeed lovely. My wife Sherri was taken by the portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. The sight and story of his Nelson Mandela picture brought a smile to my face. Because I write a photography blog, I thought it would be appropriate to include a couple of Karsh’s images of fellow photographers that had a great impact on me and my direction in photography.
Ansel Adams 1977
If you don’t know who this guy is, you really need to get out more. Ansel is an American landscape photographer of some renown and considerable talent. A classic pose with his trademark hat.
Edward Steichen 1965
Edward Steichen was one of the earliest color photographers, starting experiments with color in 1904. He was often featured in Alfred Stieglitz’s magazine, Camera Work. Steichen, working as a “photo judge” in 1943 for US Camera Annual, selected Ansel Adams’ “Moonrise, Hernadez, New Mexico” for the image’s initial publication. He later became the Director of the Department of Photography for the Museum of Modern Art. At MoMA in 1955 he curated the exhibit “The Family of Man” which eventually travelled the world. The Family of Man exhibit is now a Registered Heritage in UNESCO’s Memory of the World program.
Georgia O’Keeffe 1965
O’Keeffe was another contemporary of Ansel Adams. They met in 1929 near the start of his career and were lifelong friends sharing an affinity for their natural subjects. Karsh captures her using natural sun backlighting and artificial front lighting in a masterful balance.
“Photography is, to me, more than a means of expression, more than my particular profession – it is a way of life. And if I were asked to choose one word which holds the key to my work I would select ‘light’ – for light is my language, and it is international, readily understood by any person of any race. It has been my good fortune to welcome before my camera many great men and woman who have made their mark on our generation and will find a place in history. I feel that my life’s work is to interpret to the best of my ability, the inner strength, the true character, of these personalities, through the medium of photographic portraiture. I can think of no elation equal to that when something close to my ideal is achieved, through necessarily there must always be a spark of what I call ‘divine discontent’ – the constant striving for near-perfection. In this self-appointed task, which also carries, I believe, a great sense of responsibility, the medium of light is all important. It is the portraitist’s chief tool, and he can never learn enough about it.” – Yousuf Karsh
In the best light…