Yousuf Karsh, who shot to fame following his portrait of Winston Churchill; The Roaring Lion, has in his portfolio, images of many great heroes. Karsh’s images show great variety in posture and lighting while capturing brilliantly the individual character of the subject; as stated in the L.A. Times, ‘Each picture captures not only an image but a personality’. The body language, direction of gaze and hand gestures work together with lighting and effects to hint at the type of person being portrayed.
His portrait below of Albert Einstein is lit from
slightly behind so that the light skims across his face, highlighting the deep
wrinkles which show great wisdom and character; true to type, Karsh has
captured the pensive look on the academic’s face. French author, François
Mauriac’s silhouette is given an aristocratic feel using edge lighting to
highlight only the edges of his noble features. Karsh’s portrait of playwright,
Bernard Shaw is lit from a high angle creating strong highlights and shadows in
his face and clothing; Karsh has perfectly captured Shaw’s quizzical demeanour.
Karsh’s became well known
for his hero worshiping ethos and as a result, his subjects knew that going in front of his lens would bring them iconic status. He was trusted by all to
bring out the best in his clients, boosting their public persona:
"There is a brief
moment," he believed, "when all there is in a man's mind and soul and
spirit may be reflected through his eyes, his hands, his attitude. This is the
moment to record. This is the elusive 'moment of truth.”
It has been written that
Karsh’s motivation stemmed from a belief in the dignity, goodness and genius of
Karsh’s work has been in a
variety of mass media, including postage stamps and currency and is recognised
in both European and North American culture.