BEETLES and Huxley mount the first major London exhibition in 30 years of work by Yousuf Karsh, one of the greatest and most respected portrait photographers of the 20th century later this month. The show highlights many of his high-profile commissions including Karsh’s famous photograph of a defiant Winston Churchill, minus a cigar, the gorgeous Audrey Hepburn, Pablo Picasso in his studio and a mystical portrayal of Jacques Cousteau to name a few.
The show will highlight Karsh’s extraordinary ability to capture his subjects’ personalities which he achieved through sophisticated lighting techniques developed initially through studying the work of great master painters, Rembrandt and Velázquez.
Armenian Karsh was one of the greatest and most respected portrait photographers of the 20th century. Renowned for his iconic photographs of the rich and famous, Karsh’s successful and prolific career lasted nearly 60 years. Fascinated by “greatness” himself, Karsh was attracted by the persona of celebrities, royalty, politicians and scientists maintaining that
“… it is the mind and soul of the personality before my camera that interests me most, and the greater the mind and soul, the greater my interest.”
The photographs on display also reveal the theatricality of Karsh’s formal studio-based approach to composition, developed from his experimentation with theatrical lighting at Ottawa Theatre in Canada. Often without the addition of scenery or accoutrements, the success of his images relied entirely on the sitters’ posture and expression in which he believed. “There is a brief moment when all there is in a man’s mind and soul and spirit is reflected through his eyes, his hands, his attitude. This is the moment to record,” he said.
Ever more remarkable is the photographer’s determination to achieve perfection despite the harsh realities of his upbringing when he was forced to flee the atrocities committed by Turkey during World War One before his family sought refuge in Syria.
by Miranda Charalambous
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