Fifty Years of Karsh in Four Minutes
- Jan 23rd. 2013
- Posted in General thoughts on Photograhy . lighting . News . Portraiture . videos
- @ThomasShue . Karsh . Karsh a fifty year retrospective . lighting . Lighting master . Lilsamedia . lilsamedia.com . Master Photographer . Thomas Shue . Thomas Shue Photography . tom shue . Yousuf Karsh
- By Thomas Shue
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Fifty Years of Karsh in Four Minutes
Image by Yousuf Karsh. “A Self Portrait”
Today my goal is to motivate you to study the masters. For me there is only one true master in the portrait photographers world of old. This masters name is Yousuf Karsh. He was born in Armenia and during his teen age years faced genocide at the hands of the Turkish during WW-I. This killing took many of his family members and he even lost a sister to starvation. When Harsh was just 16 he left Armenia and went to Canada where he spent time assisting his photographer uncle A.G. Nakash, who saw great potential in him. After his uncle realized Karsh need guidance from a more skilled photographer, he was sent to assist with John Garo, a famed Boston photographer.
Garo worked only in natural light so there was lots of free time where the studio also served as an “informal salon”. Karsh learned much a about people during his time-serving cocktails to many of Boston’s most influential. Karsh called time with Garo his time at the University. Karsh’s free time was otfen spent at the Boston Museum of Fine art where he would study the masters of painting. This is where he began to really study lighting, and composition. Karsh would spend three years with Garo then finally return to Canada.
Once back in Canada, Ottawa in fact, he opened a very modest studio and became involved at a local theater where he would learn to work with artificial lighting. Karsh also became quickly involved in political circles, and was named the official photographer for the Canadian government in three short years. Karsh was really starting to become well-known in Canada, but it wasn’t until he got the job of shooting Winston Churchill during a visit to Ottawa did his career really take off.
Churchill agreed to give Karsh two minuets and not a second more to make a portrait. When Churchill entered a room where Karsh was waiting to make his portrait, he did so with his trademark cigar hanging from his mouth. Karsh gave him a few directions, and with the shutter release cable in hand, he reached over and plucked the cigar out of his mouth. The resulting image was one with Churchill scowling into the camera. This iconic image became a portrait of British tenacity and gave Churchill his nickname as the, “British Bulldog”. By the way the image was purchased by Life magazine for just $100 bucks, and that image became the most reproduced portrait in the history of photography.
Image by Yousuf Karsh for Life Magazine
Imagine the scene, an 8×10 Camera just feet away from Churchill with a little Armenian man who just snatched a cigar out of the mouth of one of the most powerful men in the world. I have one word, “Balls”! The face above was the one that camera saw that very instant. Not only was Karsh a master at lighting, he was the best of the best at capturing the decisive moment.
Below is a video showing 50 years of Yousuf Karsh’s work. This man shot everyone! He shot Presidents, Popes, Queens, Dictators, Artists, Writers, he shot every one who was important for decades. The video is shot in 1080HD. I took the extra time to shoot in HD so you can see the detail of his work. An 8X10 camera in the hands of a true master is unbeatable with respect to image quality, even today. Do yourself a favor, watch the video in HD and pause it to take a close look at his work.