Karsh Signature

Yousuf Karsh, master photographer of the 20th century

Symposium at The Art Institute of Chicago

‘Yousuf Karsh: Regarding Heroes – Symposium’
The Art Institute of Chicago
Symposium at Fullerton Hall
April 4, 2009, 1 p.m – 5 p.m

Great photographic portraitists produce images that reflect their own temperament as much as how the camera records the physical appearance of their sitters. Beyond that, the reason why the portraits are made affects the approach the photographer employs. When the subject is the photographer’s client, the sitter expects to be pleased, but when the portrait is commissioned for editorial purposes, the sitter may have little say in how the portrait is made or distributed. Likewise, when portraits are made as part of a personal effort to document a social situation, the photographer is in sole control of the meaning he or she intends for the portrait.

Four experts in the field will discuss these issues in sympathy and in contrast to the exhibition Yousuf Karsh: Regarding Heroes, which celebrates the centenary of the birth of Yousuf Karsh in Galleries 1-4.


Jerry Fielder, Director and Curator of the Estate of Yousuf Karsh
A Personal View of Karsh’s Life and Work

Reviewing his history, his family, the influence of his mentors, the development of his style, and Fielder’s 30 years of working with him and his photographs.

Colin Westerbeck, Director of the California Museum of Photography at the University of California, Riverside
In the Light of Other Days: the Cold-War Portraiture of Richard Avedon & Irving Penn

The lecture will discuss how the portraiture of Penn and Avedon, dialectically different as it was, right down to the lighting, was nevertheless a shared reflection of the times in which they were working.

David Travis, former Chair and Curator of the Department of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago
Yousuf Karsh, The Last of His Kind

A critical re-evaluation of Karsh’s attitude toward portraiture and why there are few contemporary photographers are working in the way he did. Travis will examine the unique factors in Karsh’s own personal background, traditional training, inventive techniques, and attitude toward heroes and hero-worship.

Dawoud Bey
Photographer and professor of photography at Columbia College Chicago will discuss his own work as a portrait photographer and documentarian.