Karsh Portraits On Display In Seoul

By Cathy Rose A. Garcia

Korea Times
March 16 2009
S. Korea

Yousuf Karsh, a master of portrait photography, is widely known for his
iconic portraits of some of the most famous men and women of the 20th
century, such as Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa,
Ernest Hemingway, Jacqueline Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn.

Seventy of Karsh’s portraits from the collection of the Museum of
Fine Arts Boston are currently part of the "Karsh 100" exhibition
at the Hangaram Art Museum, Seoul Arts Center, southern Seoul. The
exhibition marks the 100th anniversary of Karsh’s birth, who died in
2002 at the age of 93.

Throughout his career, the Armenian-Canadian photographer took
portraits of 15,312 of the most notable people around the world.

Karsh had once written about his "fascination for the inner power
of his subjects." His goal was "to photograph the great in spirit,
whether they be famous or humble."

Karsh was born Dec. 23, 1908, in Mardin, a city in what is now
southeastern Turkey and grew up during the Armenian Genocide. To escape
the hardship, his family moved to Syria when he was 14. When he was
16, his parents sent him to live with his uncle, a photographer,
in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada.

Karsh showed a gift for photography, so he was sent to apprentice with
renowned portrait photographer John Garo in Boston. After returning to
Canada a few years later, he opened a studio in Ottawa, Ontario. He
met Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King, who later introduced him
to visiting dignitaries for portraits.

It was his portrait of a defiant-looking British Prime Minister
Winston Churchill that brought Karsh international fame. On Dec. 30,
1941, Prime Minister King arranged for a portrait to be taken after
Churchill’s speech at the Canadian Parliament. Churchill was caught
unaware, and refused at first.

In his book "Faces of Our Time," Karsh wrote that Churchill relented
but only allowed two minutes to take the photograph. "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 all the world with his fame, and me, on this occasion, with
dread," he said.

Churchill had lit a cigar, but Karsh respectfully removed it from
his mouth before taking the portrait. "At this, the Churchillian
scowl deepened, the head was thrust forward belligerently, and
the hand placed on the hip in an attitude of anger. I clicked the
shutter. Then he relaxed. `All right,’ he grunted as he assumed a
more benign attitude, `you may take another one’," Karsh said.

The Karsh exhibition in Seoul is divided into three sections,
"Portraits," featuring his famous works of people; "On Assignment,"
showing images of post-war Canada; and "The Early Years," featuring
early experimental images.

Aside from the famous portraits of Churchill, Hepburn, Kennedy,
Einstein and Hemingway, there are also revealing portraits of Pablo
Picasso, Dwight Eisenhower, Humphrey Bogart, Jacques Costeau, Helen
Keller and Fidel Castro.

Most of the photographs are black-and-white, but Karsh also made
color portraits, such as the one of Italian actress Sophia Loren.

There is a special section showing portraits of renowned Korean
figures taken by Korean photographers, Lim Eung-sik, Yuk Myung-sim,
Park Sang-hoon, Lim Young-kyun and Kim Dong-wook.

Lim Young-kyun had a chance to meet Karsh in New York in 1982. His
portrait of Karsh is included in the exhibition.

"Karsh 100" runs through May 8. Tickets cost 8,000 won. Visit
A possible drawback for foreign visitors: there
is little English information provided at the exhibition. To get to
Seoul Arts Center, leave Nambu Bus Terminal station on subway line
3 via exit 5.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress


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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS