Saturday, October 8, 2011

One of the Greats... Yousuf Karsh

After over thirty years of photographing people, I have yet to find very many modern portraitists that can match the quality and artistry of some of the photographers from previous decades. Photographers like Karsh of Ottawa and Arnold Newman are two of my favourites. Their portraits are carefully controlled, beautifully posed and exquisitely lit and perfectly printed. Some say that this type of portrait is not relevant in the twenty-first century, however if today's photographers can learn the lighting, exposure and composition techniques of these Masters, I'm sure their portraiture, in their own style, would take a great leap forward.

Here are some examples of the work of Yousuf Karsh, an Armenian photographer, born in eastern Turkey, whose parents fled the massacres of the early twentieth century. I'm sure you will have seen some of these iconic portraits without realising who made them. Look him up on the internet and read the stories of how these portraits came about.

Ernest Hemingway by Karsh

Sir Winston Churchill by Karsh

George Bernard Shaw by Karsh

Albert Einstein by Karsh

Helen Keller by Karsh

Pablo Casals by Karsh
Now think of the very sorry examples you see on the billboards and newspaper ads of numerous real estate agents and banks around your city. Not one of them has remained in my consciousness!! Where has the quality portrait gone? In most cases the pictures (I hesitate to call them portraits) were commissioned by someone who had no idea of the value of an exceptional portrait and was swayed by the accountant to put a nominal price on the images.  As they say, "you pay peanuts, you get monkeys." 

That last statement is probably not fair to the photographers. There are still a number of magazines that do commission photographers and pay them well, but they are few and far between. Annual reports and some of the local newspapers also produce some exceptional portraits. Why not have the same standard on the walls of our homes? There seems to be feeling in Australia that it is somehow UNAustralian to have a portrait of oneself on a wall for everyone to see. Family portrait, OK, but a single portrait?.....  Naaaah!   "Someone might think I'm up meself!"

1 comment:

Darren From said...

True masters I only wish I was as skilled as this thank you for sharing.