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.

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