Yousuf Karsh"s lifelong ambition was to search for a form within a face, one that could become a symbol for a life that was purposeful, meaningful, and generally virtuous. "I speak with some experience when I say that I have rarely left the company of accomplished men and women without feeling that they had in them real sincerity, integrity - yes, and sometimes vanity of course - and always a sense of high purpose".
In his sixty-year career, he seldom wavered from this goal, even when fame and fortune came his way. Neither did he discard his trademark variations in lighting style that he perfected in the late 1940s while other fashions came and went. Unchanging, too, was his genius at capturing the revealing and ephemeral psychological expressions, those fleeting disclosures of character and purpose for which his famous sitters trusted him.
He was the preferred photographer of kings, queens, princes, presidents, prime ministers, generals, and other political figures because he rendered them with an unbiased and unfailing regard for their dignity. With musicians, artists, writers, scientists, actors, and other creative intellectuals, he shared a parallel ambition: to create works of art of lasting value. In making what now seem singular, monumental statements honouring those he considered his contemporary heroes, he stood alone in his field, so much so that it could be argued he was the last of his kind.
Arriving in Canada as a teenage refugee escaping the Armenian genocide, he was trained first by his uncle and then by John Garo in Boston as a professional portrait photographer. At first this meant pleasing his sitters, rather than the editors and publishers who, with their staff photographers, kept an eye on fashion and celebrity. In 1941, after nine years as a struggling young photographer in Ottawa, fortune and personal connections justified his dedication. He shot the memorable image of Winston Churchill that became known as "the roaring lion". His name and his career were made almost instantly.
But despite his personal success, this was still a period of anxious uncertainty, especially concerning the fate of European democracies and indeed the future of Western civilisation. It was in that period that Karsh captured, like no other photographer, the faces of the people who defined and directed the age. It is this notion of heroism and its stylistic rendition that this book examines and illuminates.
David Travis, a renowned and beloved curator, has written extensively about modernist photography. In 1975, he founded the Department of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, creating a world-class centre for the study and conservation of the medium. During a 35-year career at the museum, he organised more than 150 exhibitions and published many of the standard texts in his field. His exhibitions have toured to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museé d’Art Modern de la Ville de Paris, and the National Museum of Art in Osaka, Japan. In 2003, a selection of his lectures and essays was issued by David R. Godine, under the title, At the Edge of the Light: Thoughts on Photography & Photographers, on Talent & Genius.
Jacket photographs of Ernest Hemingway and Audrey Hepburn by Yousuf Karsh. Jacket design by Sara Eisenman. Printed by Genoud (Switzerland), Karsh"s preferred printer, and produced with the involvement of Estrellita Karsh, Yousuf Karsh"s widow.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
|Statement||Yousuf Karsh ; selected, with an essay, by David Travis and biographical sketches by Patricia Kouba.|
|Contributions||Travis, David, 1948-|
|LC Classifications||TR681.F3 K3828 2009|
|The Physical Object|
|Number of Pages||192|
|LC Control Number||2008041864|
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