Saturday, December 29, 2012

Yousuf Karsh – The Soul-Searcher

“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.”
-       Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002) is one of the masters of 20th century photography. His body of work includes portraits of statesmen, artists, musicians, authors, scientists, and men and women of accomplishment. His extraordinary and unique portfolio presents the viewer with an intimate and compassionate view of humanity.

Karsh was born in what is now Turkey and was sent to live with his uncle, a photographer, in Canada during the Armenian Genocide at the age of 16. His uncle saw his great potential from Karsh helping out in his studio and sent him to apprentice with portrait photographer John Garo in Boston. Karsh’s place in photographical history was sealed in 1941 when he photographed Winston Churchill after he had given a speech in Ottawa, Canada.

He published 15 books of his photographs which also included brief descriptions of the sessions. Among others, he had photographed “Nelson Mandela, Audrey Hepburn, Mother Theresa, and Humphrey Bogart.

Karsh was a master of studio lights and one of his distinctive characteristics was lighting the subject’s hands separately. He photographed some of the most celebrated people of his generation. He had a gift for capturing the essence of his subject in the frame of a portrait. He chose to photograph people “great in heart, in mind, and in spirit, whether they be famous or humble”, as he so perfectly put it. 

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