Sunday, December 6, 2009

Analogue Techniques 11.2 - Karsh

Jacques Cousteau (1972)

Before going to see this exhibit I'd never even heard of Yousaf Karsh, so it was definitely an exciting experience to see his work which I enjoyed a lot. It was amazing to see all of the different people through recent history that he's captured on film, some famous and some not. You can really see the work, care and detail that Karsh put into every portrait. As far as shooting people goes I think he captured his subjects very well and they look at ease and relaxed for the most part which I think is one of the hardest things to do in a portrait. I've always found it difficult to ask people to sit or pose for a photograph and am uncomfortable shooting them with a camera in their face, which gives me a much bigger appreciation for Karsh's work and can see why he's one if not the best portrait photographers.

I chose his Jacques Cousteau portrait as I find that it's just a really amazing profile shot. It's looks rather simple but it just stands out. Cousteau has a very characteristic and incredible profile and I think that Karsh saw that and took advantage of it. I hadn't really known much about Cousteau until a 2004 film called The Life Aquatic with Steven Zissou (now one of my all time favorites) came out, which was basically a homage and tribute to Jaques Cousteau.

Cousteau definitely lived an interesting life and was a pioneer in underwater exploration. I like to think the photo captures an older man who has been through a lot already but is still looking forward, ready to seek new adventures. The only lighting looks to be coming from the front. I feel that the light frames in Cousteau's face nicely and almost gives it a border to make it stand out more against the darkness around him. I'm thinking that Karsh probably would have dodged the face to make the darker tones around Cousteau even darker in order to have the face be brighter and stand out more. I think it's also a nice level of contrast between the lights, dark and midtones of the greys. I also like that Cousteau is wearing his scuba suit which also frames in his face rather nicely. Overall it's just a really well composed and nicely lit shot, that captures "Captain Cousteau" very well.

I'm glad I had the chance to see the Yousaf Karsh exhibit and discover for the first time this man's life's work in portraits. It was great to see the photos up close and in person.