The World of Yousuf Karsh

The difference between looking at fine black-and-white photo prints in person—not online, not in a book, but on the wall in front of you— is something like the difference between hearing live music and listening to a CD. A good example is The World of Yousuf Karsh exhibit now at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Karsh’s portraits of the famous, and a few not-so-famous, are completely traditional in lighting, poses and composition, literally from another century. But they also remain as powerful and eloquent as the day they first swam to the surface of his darkroom developing tray. The eloquence comes from the artistry Karsh used to control the lighting and the composition, but also from the connection he clearly made with the people he was photographing, from Albert Einstein to Winston Churchill, Fidel Castro, Paul Robeson, Nelson Mandela, Brigitte Bardot, Helen Keller, Marian Anderson, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Almost equally eloquent are the statements he made about each image, reproduced as captions next to the photos. Karsh, born Armenian in the Ottoman empire in 1908, spent most of his life in Canada. He died in Boston in 2002. At the museum until January 30. Or click here for a quick look.  And here for a longer look.

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