Karsh Signature

Yousuf Karsh, master photographer of the 20th century

John Loengard: Celebrating the Negative

John Loengard Celebrating the Negative Yousuf Karsh

© John Loengard

Celebrating the Negative is a study of the original film on which famous images have been captured by some of the most important photographers from the 19th and 20th centuries. Loengard’s pictures are of the photographers’ famous images as negatives – not prints.

“I photographed the negatives in this exhibition as quickly and simply as possible. I used a small camera on a tripod. Any light box, window or even a sunny wall would do as a background. I wanted to catch the moment when the negative first came out of its envelope and was shown with pride. How people touched the negative played subtly against the image on the film itself. At least, I felt this was so.

“I noticed that Richard Avedon held his negative barehanded. Imogen Cunningham’s son, Rondal Partridge, held hers that way too. Yousuf Karsh put on gloves, but he was holding his 1941 negative of Winston Churchill, a jewel in the National Archive of Canada. The archivists might have shot him dead had he touched it unprotected.” – John Loengard

John Loengard, Celebrating the Negative is available to museums as a touring exhibition from Curatorial Assistance. The book was originally published by Arcade Publishing in 1994.

Click to watch Yousuf Karsh and Morley Safer recreate the Churchill photograph.

Read an article from 2016 written by John Loengard in L’Oeil de la Photographie.