Yousuf Karsh

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Review assignment

by Kate Tran

Camera Press represented Yousuf Karsh with his portraitures as they lay open the gallery with his work including his most famous portrait of Winston Churchill shot in 1941. It is still one of the world’s most frequent published images. People like to connect that photograph with its story when Churchill got angry by Karsh plucking his cigar away. However afterwards he had said ‘You can even make a roaring lion stand still to be photographed.’ Yousuf Karsh was marked as one of the masters of portraiture in the twentieth century resulting from success of the moment capture of the lion. Walking through the room, it is notable that Karsh has his own style of taking photographs, using the techniques of theatrical light, focused on the object. Critics have praised and mocked his mannerist obsession with sculpturally posed hands but those who came to take a picture expected his remarkable lighting and monumental poise. Also, each of the photographs has its story where it seems like Karsh had an understanding of each person who sat against his lens. His style seemed to be simple, but to reveal facial expressions as he wanted to show the viewer an intimate glimpse of the character’s insight, he needed perfect collocation of the lightings. However, it has been described as uninventive and monotonous; a 1996 MFA show of Karsh portraits was savaged by a Globe critic as "a boring, self-conscious, superficial take on a very famous subject." In any case Karsh has succeeded in implying differences to each character from his collection. They may seem to be very similar but each of them has its own mark, either different hand positions or expression which changes attitudes to a significant figure. Through his work, it can be seen that he’s been interested in contrasting images as far back as he started with photography. In early years Karsh liked to experiment with optics and Surrealism. Photograph called Elixir (1938) could grab anyone’s eye...
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