Monday, March 16, 2009

Shifting Through the Shadows

By Jennifer Sullivan

Marking the century of photographer, Yousuf Karsh’s birth, the Art Institute of Chicago is holding an exhibit in his honor. From January 22nd until April 26th, Karsh’s “Regarding Heroes” exhibit will be on display featuring one hundred and three black and white photographs. Karsh’s last exhibition in Chicago was in 1952.

From poet Robert Frost, to actress Joan Crawford, from genius Albert Einstein to famous politicians like the Kennedys to Queen Elizabeth, Karsh photographed some of the most influential figures of the 20th century.

The Art Institute’s former art curator, David Travis, ended his thirty-four year career with this exhibit. Travis said that as a former photographer, it was important for him to display Karsh’s work because he admired his ability to seek goodness, beauty, and truth in people. He said that Karsh believed, “There were hero’s that were going to make the world a better place.” Speaking to Travis was like talking to Karsh himself. He knew the most intimate details of Karsh’s life and was replete with fascinating facts.

Courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago

“He got people to drop the kind of facial expression they always walked around with. What photographers call the mask,” Travis said. Although, Karsh was more lenient about looking natural when it come to photographing Hollywood movie stars. Ingrid Bergman’s is one of the few photographs that look posed and forced. But because these women were concerned with capturing their outer beauty rather than their personality, Karsh allowed them to have a say in how they posed.

As Travis discussed the various photographs, he stopped at a portrait of Norman Rockwell and pointed to the tiny pieces of paper, scattered on the floor of artist’s studio. As Karsh tried to capture the perfect picture of Rockwell, Rockwell was busy scribbling sketches of Karsh and discarding them on the floor. From one artist to another, this photograph captures the ingenious
sharing of creativity.

DePaul University Art History Professor, Mark Pohlad, who took his freshman photography class to study the works, said his students were drawn to the photographs pertaining to sexuality. One of Karsh’s most famous provocative subjects was Bridgitte Bardot who seduces all who pass her photograph with her exposed brassiere and sexually shaped almond eyes.

Judy Poger, who traveled all the way from Detroit to see the exhibit, said she was, “Intrigued and awed by his skill.”

The photograph, which launched Karsh to fame, was a portrait of Prime Minister Winston Churchill entitled, “The Roaring Lion.” Capturing Churchill’s ferocity and charisma, this picture became the symbol of British resistance during WWII.

Using only natural lighting as a technique, Karsh was able to expose a person’s true personality and character through the shadows of black and white.

Radio report #2: Karsh Capturing Hands

The Art Institute of Chicago is exhibiting photographer Yousuf Karsh’s works from January 22nd through April 26th. One hundred and three black and white photographs are featured in the exhibit, “Regarding Heroes.”

Karsh’s compassion for his subjects coupled with his unusual technique and traditional training contributed to making his sixty-year career, one of the most influential in the photography

Former Art Curator, David Travis said that after Karsh photographed
Helen Keller, he became enamored with photographing subjects with
their eyes closed because it made him concentrate on other facial
features, which were often unnoticed. He also preferred capturing his
subjects using their hands, which is why some people are smoking.
Karsh captures the essence of boxer Muhammad Ali’s power with his
hands sternly placed on his hips.

Karsh said that Quote: My quest in making a photograph is for a
quality that I know exists in the personality before me, for what I
sometimes call the inward power. End quote.

David Travis will be giving a lecture on Yousuf Karsh on Saturday
April 4th.

For further details visit our website:

I’m Jennifer Sullivan reporting for DePaul Radio

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Radio Report #1: Yousuf Karsh and His Heroes

The Art Institute of Chicago has organized an exhibition that focuses on Yousuf Karsh. Karsh is responsible for some of the 20th century’s most famous photographic portraits of celebrities and public figures. Among them: Audrey Hepburn, Ernest Hemingway, Georgia O’keeffe, Albert Einstein, Christian Dior, Marian Anderson and many others.

The exhibition, called “Regarding Heroes” showcases 103 photographs chosen from a set of more than 200 master prints. Estrellita Karsh, the great photographer’s widow, presented these photographs to the Art Institute of Chicago as a gift.

As a young boy Karsh, a native of Armenia, was forced to move from his homeland after the Armenian Genocide of 1915. He settled in Ottawa, Canada.

In 1941, after nine years as a struggling young photographer in Ottawa, Karsh captured the unforgettable image of Winston Churchill, The British Prime Minister. That picture became known as “the roaring lion.” This photograph is claimed to be the most reproduced photographic portrait in history.

Regarding Heroes displays this and many other photographs of numerous luminaries and will be on view from January 22 to April 26, 2009.

Reporting for Depaul Radio this is Ruzanna Tantushyan

David Travis tells the story behind his favorite of Karsh's photographs

"Regarding Heroes" curator David Travis explains the significance behind Yousuf Karsh's photograph of opera singer Marian Anderson and how she broke the color barrier in 1939.

Estrellita Karsh talks to Museum of Fine Arts in Boston about her husband's life and work

Mrs. Estrellita Karsh, widow of renowned photographer Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002), talks about her husband's life and work in this video interview. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston hosted an exhibit from September 23, 2008 to January 19, 2009 for "Karsh 100: A Biography in Images," a visual biography of this twentieth-century legend.

Yousuf Karsh's Iconic Portraits on Display at Art Institute: Wife Donates His Photos to Museum in Will

By Christiana Johns

From politicians to royalty, celebrities to scientists and artists to authors, Yousuf Karsh photographed some of the most famous faces of the 20th century.

These iconic black and white photographs are now on display at the Art Institute of Chicago in a new exhibit called "Yousuf Karsh: Regarding Heroes."

The exhibit is a reflective display of Karsh's preferred portraits and marks the century since his birth. Exhibit Curator David Travis -- who retired after organizing this show -- said the exhibit stems from a collection of more than 200 photos promised to the Institute from Karsh's widow, Estrellita Karsh, in her will.

"Regarding Heroes" consists of more than 100 photographs of many influential people in
politics, science and the arts such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, Albert Einstein and Audrey Hepburn. Karsh was invited to capture official images of the First Family such as John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy, and the British royal family.

"Karsh liked these people; he liked movers and shakers," Travis said. "He was an admitted hero worshipper."

Humble beginnings
Although Karsh rubbed elbows with the rich and famous, he came from humble beginnings in his native Western Armenia, now Turkey. After his family fled to Syria to escape the Armenian Genocide, Karsh was sent overseas to Canada as a teenager to make a life for himself.

He developed his intrigue and skill for photography while living with his uncle, who was a photographer, and later became an apprentice to another photographer, John H. Garo, in Boston from 1928-1931. He moved back to Ottawa where he set up his own studio and did freelance work for Maclean’s magazine.
Then, in 1941, he took the picture that changed his life.

"The Roaring Lion"
After addressing the Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa during
photograph him. With only two minutes and having yanked the prime minister's cigar out of his mouth, Karsh captured his most famous portrait of a scowling, steadfast Churchill.

"It became the symbol of British resistance to fascism in Europe, and after that he became world famous almost instantly with this one picture," Travis said.

Churchill later said to him, "You can even make a roaring lion stand still to be photographed." Therefore, Karsh titled the photograph, "The Roaring Lion."

Amazing things
Karsh went on to take hundreds of portraits throughout his lifetime of some of the most well-known people in the world. He not only skillfully used light and composition, but he captured the personalities of his subjects by getting under their skin.

"He could get people to do amazing things for him," Travis said.

Due to his humble background, Travis said Karsh was drawn to these influential people.

"This idea that there were heroes that were gong to make the world a better places was really something deep and sincere in him," he said.

Set the bar pretty high
DePaul University art history professor, Dr. Mark Pohlad, agreed.

"He was anxious to see some optimism in human nature, so I think he went out of his way to capture that," Pohlad said.

The professor took his photography students to see the exhibit in order to show them the portraits from Karsh, who they discussed in class. Pohlad said he wanted to show his students someone who set the bar pretty high for photographs of famous people.
"Karsh might have been the last of the great black and white celebrity photographers," he said.

Musuem visitors, whether they heard of Karsh or not, said there were several aspects of Karsh's work they enjoyed.

Melissa Sanders never heard of Karsh before visiting the Institute, but she said she liked the realistic, simple portrayal of his subjects.

Kim Hoopinggarner, visiting from Evanston, said she thought Karsh captured the personalities of the people he photographed.

"I'm mostly amazed at the range of people that he photographed in his lifetime, from architects and scientists and actors," she said.

Judy Poger, who was visiting from Detriot, said she is awed by Karsh's skill. She said her and her husband have many of his books at home, and have seen many of his exhibits in the past.

"I could recognize the people from clear across the room and know what they were known for, and that's a remarkable skill," Poger said.

"Regarding Heroes" is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago from now until April 26. Admission is $12 for adults and $7 for students. Visit for museum hours and directions.

To see more of Yousuf Karsh's photos and read more about his life and works:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Photo Tour: Regarding Heroes Exhibition

Music by Charles Aznavour "For Me Formidable".
Photos of Yousuf Karsh by Lois Siegel and from the Shelton Chen Collection
Exhibition Photo Tour by RT

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Photographic Portrait Story: Winston Churchill

The image of Winston Churchill, the British prime minister(1940-1945, 1951-1955), brought Karsh international prominence, and is claimed to be the most reproduced photographic portrait in history.

The story is often told of how Karsh created his famous portrait of Churchill. Churchill, had just addressed the Canadian Parliament and Karsh was there to record one of the century's great leaders.

"He was in no mood for portraiture and two minutes were all that he would allow me as he passed from the House of Commons chamber to an anteroom," Karsh wrote in "Faces of Our Time."

"Two niggardly minutes in which I must try to put on film a man who had already written or inspired a library of books, baffled all his biographers, filled the world with his fame, and me, on this occasion, with dread," Karsh said."

Churchill marched into the room scowling, "regarding my camera as he might regard the German enemy." His expression suited Karsh perfectly, but the cigar stuck between his teeth seemed incompatible with such a solemn and formal occasion. "Instinctively, I removed the cigar," Karsh said. "At this the Churchillian scowl deepened, the head was thrust forward belligerently, and the hand placed on the hip in an attitude of anger."

The image captured Churchill and the Britain of the time perfectly — defiant and unconquerable. Churchill later said to him, "You can even make a roaring lion stand still to be photographed." As such, Karsh titled the photograph, The Roaring Lion.

However, Karsh's favorite photograph was the one taken immediately after this one where Churchill's mood had lightened considerably and is shown much in the same pose, but smiling.