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01-21-2009, 12:40 PM   #1
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Famous Portrait Photographer

A few months back one of the photography forums had a link to the web site of a photographer who does studio portraits of leaders from the business, political, art, sports worlds. I can't remember his name or the web site. The portraits are simple, with a brown backdrop (I think) for every one of them. Some of the subjects included (I think) Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton. Can anybody help me out here?

01-21-2009, 04:21 PM   #2
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I believe that would be the amazing Canadian portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh. So simple yet so profound. My favourite is his portrait of Winston Churchill. Talk about a character study.

Photographer profile: Yousuf Karsh - The Iron Warrior
01-21-2009, 04:34 PM   #3
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Yousuf Karsh

QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
I believe that would be the amazing Canadian portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh. So simple yet so profound. My favourite is his portrait of Winston Churchill. Talk about a character study.

Photographer profile: Yousuf Karsh - The Iron Warrior
PM Peter Zack about Karsh PentaxForums.com - View Profile: Peter Zack
01-21-2009, 07:38 PM   #4
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This is the guy you're looking for:

William Coupon

I just happened to stumble upon his site while searching for info on lighting.

01-21-2009, 09:05 PM   #5
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Coupon is the one light miracle worker. His work is just amazing, I make it a point to study his work on a weekly basis.
01-22-2009, 10:31 AM   #6
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That's him, Coupon's the one. I didn't realize he did the nudes and other photos as well, mostly because I was just struck by his simple but extraordinary portraits of well-known folks. I was thinking about trying to do my best to replicate the style with portraits of my extended family and friends. Thanks folks! Now I'm going to check out Karsh as well...
01-22-2009, 10:39 AM   #7
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As much as I like Karsh (plus he's a Canuck). He's not the one discussed here. But his work is well worth studying for some great portrait shooting. Simple and powerful images.
01-22-2009, 10:44 AM   #8
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Coupon's work is excellent. He has an incredible portfolio of people on that site. It looks like he shoots with just one light or at most 2 in his shots. Makes for some powerful images.

01-22-2009, 10:44 AM   #9
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Holy cow, Karsh is amazing as well. I spend 95% of my time photographing landscapes, nature and city scenes during travel...learning to do portraits like this strikes me as the equivalent of learning photography all over again.

On a side note, I tried a bit of it when I visited home for the holidays, and got this photo of my father. When I was growing up, he was always working on cars in our garage (he's very good at his craft), and my image of him is in coveralls under the hood of a car or pickup truck. I had an idea to capture him like this again (he doesn't spend much time in the shop now as he is pretty well into Parkinson's, but I like how this turned out (available light, handheld so a bit blurry), with the DA 12-24 (cramped garage). What do you think? Pales in comparison to Coupon and Karsh, no doubt!

01-22-2009, 10:54 AM   #10
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gnaztee, I disagree with your self criticism. It's a great shot. I like the light and shadow. The dirty hand, pose and expression. This is a thousand times better than the 'family snap shot' or 'smile for the camera'. Showing him in his element in a shot that has no appearance of a pose. One thing about portraits is you don't need a super sharp image and often that can hurt a portrait image. What's most important is to capture the essence of the person. That's the tough part. I think here you did that well.

The reason Karsh's Churchill shot is so famous (compared to the thousands of Churchill shots) is he captured what we think of Churchill. The story goes that Churchill came out of giving a speech to the Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa (1941 in Canada) to have the portrait taken and had a cigar (as always) in his mouth. Karsh had the camera set up and ready. He asked Churchill to remove the cigar. Churchill refused. So when Karsh was totally ready to take the shot. He walked over to the PM and took the cigar out of his mouth and quickly fired the famous image. Hence the tough looking scowl that was captured.

After the speech Canadian Prime Minister King had arranged for a portrait session to commemorate the event and told Karsh the day before, "When Churchill finishes his speech, I will bring him directly to you." King ushered Churchill into the room but he refused to enter demanding, "What's going on?" Unamused and caught by surprise Churchill lit up a cigar and growled, “Why was I not told of this?” The photographer Yousuf Karsh wrote what happened next:

He was in no mood for portraiture and two minutes were all that he would allow me ... Two niggardly minutes in which I must try to put on film a man who had already written or inspired a library of books, baffled all his biographers, filled all the world with his fame, and me, on this occasion, with dread. [Churchill marched into the room] regarding my camera as he might regard the German enemy.

... chewing vigorously on his cigar ... He reluctantly followed me to where my lights and camera were set up. I offered him an ash tray for his cigar but he pointedly ignored it, his eyes boring into mine. At the camera, I made sure everything was in focus, closed the lens and stood up, my hand ready to squeeze the shutter release, when something made me hesitate. Then suddenly, with a strange boldness, almost as if it were an unconscious act, I stepped forward and said, "Forgive me, sir." Without premeditation, I reached up and removed the cigar from his mouth.

... At this the Churchillian scowl deepened, the head was thrust forward belligerently, and the hand placed on the hip in an attitude of anger ... I clicked the shutter. Then he relaxed. "All right," he grunted as he assumed a more benign attitude, "you may take another one."


From http://www.famouspictures.org/mag/index.php?title=The_Churchill_Portrait

Last edited by Peter Zack; 01-22-2009 at 11:09 AM.
01-22-2009, 11:26 AM   #11
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Thanks Peter, I appreciate the compliment/critique! That's a great story about Karsh/Churchill. I went back and read a couple more of them, the Picasso one is interesting as well, how he saw himself in the lens and moved to better the composition of the portrait.

Thanks for the help folks!
01-22-2009, 11:33 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by gnaztee Quote
That's him, Coupon's the one.
Did he also photograph Mandela? I couldn't find it.

I'm very pleased to see Coupon's work, I hadn't heard of him before. I find portraits by far the most difficult subject. I have many photos to prove it.
01-22-2009, 11:34 AM   #13
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I was probably remembering Kofi Annan, not Mandela. I just knew there was a slew of well-known political figures on the web site.
01-22-2009, 12:47 PM   #14
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Platon is another great portrait photographer. He's also captured some pretty prominent subjects.

http://www.platonphoto.com/
01-22-2009, 12:55 PM   #15
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Allan, He has a unique style. Not one I like much but unique. Of course as with any type of art, some you like some you don't. But who am I? He has cover shots on Time Magazine.

He seems to use a wide angle lens a lot which is generally not recomended. Plus he shoots low, also not recommended. If the eyes are windows to the soul, Putin's shot scares the crap out of me.
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