Inspired by Photographer Yousuf Karsh

I spent a bit of time this evening looking through one of my books of portraits by Yousuf Karsh- “Karsh Portraits”, that I’ve kept in my studio now for about ten years now… A book that once was my grandfather’s, and my Mom felt I should have with the copy of the portrait of Grandpa that I have now hanging on the wall over the Giclee Printer… After Grandpa had passed she told me that he had wanted me to have them…

I sat here in the new studio, legs up on the milk can I use as a drawing stool, reclining some in my computer chair, the hardcover book in my lap… Opening carefully the now worn hard cove, as to not loose any of the article clippings that are within, as well as the letter to Grandpa from Karsh he had taped inside… I read the letter again, and then all of the articles, remembering grandpa sharing this with me so many times over the years…

My Grandfather- Vernon deTar, Past Professor Juilliard School (organ and church music) from 1947 to 1982 http://www.countrygraphics.us/VernonLdeTar.html

The look on Karsh’s face when Grandpa let him push the some of the keys to the great organ in the Church of the Ascension in NYC… The deep note you could feel deep within your chest that shakes every muscle and bone from within and the look of wonder and childish joy on Karsh’s face made me laugh I recall… He watched as Grandpa played a few pieces, then after took some photos of him near the the keyboards and he looked up and said, That’s the one…

We spent some time after, sipping some coffee as he admired the church, Grandpa telling him of the artwork and great stained glass illustrations that the church has within…

Then Grandpa told him I wanted to be an Artist, and had an interest in photography… Karsh looked at me with a smile, then very stern, as if his dark eyes where looking into me deeply… He asked if I had a camera and was shooting photos, and I pulled out my kodak 620 film camera that once was my father’s in the early 50’s… He smiled as I told him of spending hours feeding chipmunks and chickadees to get them to eat out of my hand, so I could get a close up photo with the camera of them…

Karsh Portrait of Robert Frost

Karsh laughed, telling me that was a good idea, then said with a serious look; “To be a photographer, you need to understand light and shadow, and be able to capture your subject eyes in a photo, tell a story with it, capture their soul- practice and keep practicing”… He asked if I had been to the Met and recommended I should go, which Grandpa said we where planning on going the next morning, Karsh approved…

Karsh Portrait of Picasso

He then looked at me and said; “You need to study the great artists and how their works where created, study as much Art as you can, look to the great Renaissance Master’s, learn through their works and keep practicing”… He then reached out and ruffled my hair and winked at me, then started talking with my Grandfather again…

Karsh Portrait of Georgia O'keeffe

I was suddenly started watching one of the men that was with Karsh, take his large camera apart putting it in boxes… I remember how fascinated I was with such a huge camera that would need a tripod to take photos with, and not just hold in your hand and that you would need two men to help take just one photo- so simple the thoughts of a 14 year old… A few months later I got my first 35mm camera from Grandpa, as he later told me that Karsh had recommended he get a camera a bit more up to date and easier to process to keep me interested in photography… Grandpa often referred to Karsh over the years, when ever I was visiting…

Karsh Portrait of Einstein

It wasn’t until my senior year of high school I started to grasp who this photographer truly was, that enticed my Grandfather to buy my my first 35mm camera… I started to laugh a bit to myself, as I at the time only looked to Grandpa deTar as “Grandpa”, and this fellow was just a photographer, not then having much of a clue just how much that that day would influence me in the future…

I sit here in the studio now, just looking at the photos, the faces, the eyes and wrinkles upon the faces, the eyes again, then the fullness of the locations and how he was able to capture not only the light, control the light but to also show the person from within- these great people of history…

Each time I do this, I notice more and more and understand what Karsh’s advice meant- I want to learn more, see more and practice more… A memory Yousuf Karsh, and what an inspiration he was in my life…

For more information about Yousuf Karsh

 Visit his website at: http://www.karsh.org/

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