Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Yousuf Karsh: Grey Owl


Yousuf Karsh

Grey Wolf, (Archibald Belaney) 1936

When I first walked into the Karsh exhibit I was struck by how dark the prints were. Because of this I was instantly drawn to the lighter prints. While I really liked a lot of the prints I decided to choose the print of Grey Owl. This shot was taken in 1936. What caught my attention right away was that even though the print is dark, Grey Owls eyes pop out. I also liked this print because it seemed to be softer than the rest of the collection.

The area around Grey Owl has some depth and detail and I think that Karsh would have probably preflashed the paper prior to exposing the negative, as there is a difference in tones between the background and Grey Owl. Karsh shot on a full frame camera and because of this his negatives were 8x10 so when he would have made his prints they would be more sharp and in focus because they would not have been as much enlarging. Karsh may have also made contact prints of his images because of the size of his negatives also contributing to the sharpness of the images. This particular print of Grey Owl is sharp and has an even contrast so I think that Karsh probably added a magenta filter and finished the print off with a soft filter to make the skin tones of Grey Owl softer. I don’t think that Karsh dodged or burnt anything on the image, as Karsh was technically precise with his lighting so I think he would have achieved the tones he wanted based on preexposure work rather than post exposure. However is saying that Karsh may have dodged the area around Grey Owl’s eyes as they do appear very easily in the dark shadow of his hat.

I really like this print of Grey Owl, I like the fact that his rough bush lifestyle was captured with a soft feel. So many pictures of Grey Owl are taken with environment as the background because he is about his work and lifestyle. What I like about this print is that this is just a close up of his face so that we can see the struggles of his life on his face. The expression on Grey Owl's face suggests that he is not happy with being posed but he also could be in deep thought about his situation in life.

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