When I discovered that the exhibition of the world renowned portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh is on for a few more days I immediately headed for London. It’s been held in a small hall of Beetle + Huxley in Swallow Street, not far from the Piccadilly tube station.
I fist came across the work of Yousuf Karsh some years ago when a close friend of mine gave me a book of his portraits on my special birthday. Thank you Prabhu for that wonderful book, you couldn’t have chosen a better gift.
Karsh was born in 1908 in Mardin in the Ottoman Empire (present day Turkey) and grew up during the Armenian Genocide. He and his family were driven from village to village for survival. His father then sent him to Canada to his uncle Nakash. There Karsh went to school and worked in his uncle’s studio. Nakash saw a great potential in him and sent him to Boston, Massachusetts to work with portrait photographer John Garo. There Karsh further developed his creative skills and then returned to Canada.
Karsh became the master of studio lights and started photographing big personalities. Among many such people were Winston Churchll, John F Kennedy, Fidel Castro, talented musicians and famous actors including Audrey Hepburn.
I remember hearing a radio interview with him some years ago in which he spoke about his approach to lighting. While setting up the studio lights he used to have conversations with his subjects first. During that time he studied their faces and got to know their personalities.
He died in 2002 at the age of 93. His work continues to inspire hundreds of portrait photographers.
The 23 original large prints of his work at Beetles + Huxley are for sale between £10 K and £30K each. If you are really keen then hurry along as the exhibition ends on 25th October!