Friday, November 28, 2014

The Great Man And That Smile

Yesterday's post had me look up a few things about that particular photo shoot on Parliament Hill. Yousuf Karsh remarked years later that after taking Churchill's cigar and walking back to his camera, "he looked so belligerent he could have devoured me." 

Still, the Prime Minister let him take another shot, and this one had him smiling. Churchill then told the young photographer, "You can even make a roaring lion stand still to be photographed." 

Winston Churchill by Yousuf Karsh, 1941

Other Karsh portraits were mentioned yesterday. Three others struck my interest, and I add them on here. He was the best of the best.

Elizabeth II by Yousuf Karsh, 1951

Martin Luther King Jr. by Yousuf Karsh, 1962

John F. Kennedy by Yousuf Karsh, 1960


  1. He did take some great portraits it seems. I wonder how many shots it takes to get just the right one though.

  2. I didn't hear of that photographer before, but he sure made some iconic portraits, specially the last two shots are great, I think.

  3. Ah, William, you found the smiling Winston! Excellent. Even I, knowing nothing about photography, recognise those are all superb captures - the light, the shade, the composition. With digital photography, we can shoot dozens of images to get one we like; I wonder how many attempts using film an artist like this Karsh needed?

  4. great shots. i love black and white. i really think they give the person a totally different feel or light. ( :

  5. I didn't know the author, but I have seen many times these portraits: he was really the best of the best!

  6. I love hearing the back stories!
    Jane x

  7. @Halcyon: I imagine it depends on the subject. With Churchill, it was limited time.

    @Tomas: he had real style.

    @Marianne: he certainly did.

    @Linda: definitely!

    @Jan: he took portraits of ordinary people here in Ottawa as well in his studios, and when you look at them, his iconic style is still always there.

    @Mike: the smile's a good one.

    @Beth: he worked in colour as well, but somehow the black and white images have more power.

    @VP: even not knowing the name, the work he did is instantly recognizable.

    @Jane and Chris: so do I.

  8. These are all fantastic portraits. He really was the best.

  9. Wow, I would say so. Those are all great portraits.

  10. Amazing! He did smile!

    All wonderful portraits.

  11. these are great, iconic portraits.

  12. I can only wish to take a portrait half as good as those. But then, look at the amazing subjects he was able to work with.

  13. @Birdman: definitely!

    @Lowell: he certainly had a gift.

    @Sharon: he did so well with them.

    @Norma: and it's a good smile.

    @Tex: they certainly are.

    @Karl: they're quite artistic.

    @Judy: that's true. Though he applied the same techniques with portraits he would take of everyday people.

  14. What a quality he brought!

    ALOHA from Honolulu

  15. I like that one of Sir Winston smiling. I don't remember seeing it before.

  16. Karsh even made Churchill smile! Love the roaring lion remark by Churchill :-)
    These are really great portraits!

  17. I like them all, but especially Kennedy. Perfect portrait

  18. They really are wonderful, William. What an eye he had!

  19. Wonderful and touching portraits

  20. If I recall correctly the Churchill portraits were the ones in particular that opened the door to Karsh's career. We can learn from studying his work, though much of the interaction behind the scenes (beyond your great story here) is gone. There's also art to working with people.

  21. @Cloudia: he certainly did.

    @Eve: that's right, I rarely smile!

    @Stuart: it's a good counterpoint to the one we're used to.

    @Shelly: they certainly are.

    @Marleen: I liked each in turn.

    @Tamago: Karsh certainly was an artist.

    @Spiderdama: he could bring out the personality in his subjects.

    @RedPat: he did so well with his craft.

    @Anna: indeed.

    @Cheryl: I'm glad you liked them.

    @Kay: yes, they certainly were. Our Prime Minister at the time certainly knew his work, but the Churchill shots really established him in the eyes of the world.

  22. Amazing photos, thanks for the story.

  23. Great photos.
    We live high on a hill so we are never bothered by flooding...BUT....we hope nobody else is. Usually the river just covers roads and fills low areas. Occasionally the stores use sand bags but hopefully not now.

  24. The portraits captured the personalities of the subject quite well, at least as how I perceived them.

  25. Nothing like an enjoyable afternoon going through a Karsh photo book! Thanks for a look at some of the famous photos.

  26. Those are great (and iconic) photographs. I think the one of Churchill shows tension even though he is smiling. He appears ready to spring out of his chair.

  27. These are, of course, all wonderful, but in my book, nothing compares with that Churchill image for capturing the sitter's soul.

  28. @Peter: you're welcome.

    @MB: thank you.

    @Kate: they do.

    @Red: you're welcome.

    @Linda: i agree.

    @EG: definitely.

    @Jack: true.