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Friday, 15 February 2019


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(* Ottawa, not Ottowa)

Karsh of Ottawa

A manual door with a handle on it is difficult or impossible to operate from a wheelchair or when using crutches. I guess that this automatic door needs some adjustment.

You should just schedule regular time away.
Everyone needs time away from our routine.
Just say you are 'off to Sharpen the Saw'
You always sound better when you return.
How about some pix of Watkins Glen ?
Spring is coming......

Same way I like to spend a free day, sometimes at the NPG. :)

Small detail.... no need to publish... it’s spelled O’Keeffe. (Helps to have once lived in New Mexico.)

I would love to see this. Karsh is one of my favorite portraitists.

Probably TOO far, but the Barnes in Philly will have an exhibition starting Feb 24th: "From Today, Painting Is Dead: Early Photography in Britain and France"

My wife and I are going to the Brandywine River Museum for the last weekend of "Winslow Homer: Photography and the Art of Painting" (NB: the area is home turf for the notable Wyeth family artists)

It's good to cross over into other art forms. An Andrew Wyeth retrospective a number of years ago influenced me greatly.

Hi Mike

The spelling is Ottawa not Ottowa. I hope it is ok to point this out to you.

I was born in Ottawa and spent thirty years living in the city. I got my start in photography after finding a Minolta X7a camera at a view point in the Gatineau Park. It was late autumn, I called the Park Service and gave the particulars of the camera. No one claimed it, I had my first camera. I started out hiking over twenty miles at a time with the camera and a couple lenses. It started out as documented the hiking experience to an obsession in producing large prints for galleries and corporate collections.


It’s “Karsh of OttAwa” (capital of Canada) not OttOwa, by the way.

I have always enjoyed the work of Karsh and he's from Canada too!

Ah yes..., the "Automatic Door". It is a door that opens automatically - it is not an "automatic door". Damnable things - but they do make it easier for those with handicaps to enter and exit.
Karsh of Ottawa - one of the finer things Canada has given the world. Maybe even up there with Rapeseed being renamed Canola?

Hey, Mike. Here's a thought (that you may have/probably have already had): guest curators discussing something of interest. Could be a short interview, could be just some pithy paragraphs from them. Seeing as how you are reaching out to a curator....

Did Ottawa really get misspelled in your quote?

Hi Mike,
Typo Alert!
Re: "Karsh of Ottowa", midcentury portraitist extraordinaire.
The spelling of the capital city of Canada is incorrect. Correct spelling is "Ottawa".
Somebody's spell-checker is either not working or has been corrupted.
Happy Family Day weekend to you!

Ah, Mike, that's Ottawa not Ottowa. You know, the capital of Canada...

"Karsh of Ottowa." I can see why you spelled Ottowa that way. NY State has an Ottowa. I was born in Ottawa, Illinois, and have appreciated Karsh, from Ottawa. Pronunciation doesn't seem to suffer either way.

When I was young, growing up in Southern California, my parents subscribed to a dimensionally large "magazine" printed on very fine paper, called "Wisdom". On the front and back covers were portraits by Karsh. While I was no student of art at the time, I felt the reproduction quality was very high with extraordinary detail. So taken by these images, I kept the magazines with me when I moved to northwest California in 1963. As time passed, the weight and size of this collection led me to dispose of it during a local move. I have always regretted not keeping them.

A fixed print, a fugitive print, a camera obscura projection, the image on my phone still until scrolled.
All beautiful or not.
Thank you.

The FDR photo strikes me as more "staged" than "retouched." FDR could stand with leg braces under his trousers (which make his legs appear really straight) but he had to hold on to something -- a railing or often the arm of an assistant, which in this image is son James. Somewhere in Guy Davenport's essays I remember Davenport's account of being taken to a train station as a child in his hometown in South Carolina to see FDR at a whistle-stop. There, Davenport witnessed the President fall flat on his face and be quickly stood up again by his aides. Yes, FDR could not walk, but he could stand with assistance from leg braces and a hand-hold.

I guess a primary care physician is what we in the UK would call a General Practitioner (Still considered 'Primary Care'). The heroes of a health care system - they have to cope with anything that comes at them. Also I have been often amazed at how doctors can live 2 or more full lives at the same time. Ther are some people you really would trust with your life and it has been my pleasure to work with them.
You have given me a great desire to know nore about Karsh.

Sliding doors are very helpful if you use a wheelchair.

If you look closely at the picture of FDR, you can see that he has his hand in the crook of the elbow of his son (who is standing next to him,) likely to help his steadiness. It's very subtle - FDR was known to not want his physical limitations to appear as weakness.

I saw a Karsh exhibit at the McMichael gallery a few years ago, and it taught me two things:

1. Great photos can survive flaws, and
2. Don't be afraid to retouch and be aggressive in printing techniques.

Looking closely at one of my favourites, Karsh's portrait of Hemingway in a cable knit sweater, the focus was clearly on Hemingway's whiskers and not on his eyes, which were actually soft. It didn't harm the picture one bit.

The exhibit had a lovely reconstruction of Karsh's retouching table, where one of his industrial images of Atlas Steel was being readied for printing. The original negative was being pin-registered and sandwiched with a retouching layer. Aggressive masking was underway, wholly transforming the original image from a perfunctory record of man and machine into an iconic celebration of industrialism. The careful and elaborate post-production work undertaken by Karsh freed me from my prejudices against artistic use of Photoshop on "straight" photography.

Well you are going to name check pencil retouchers, you can't leave out William Mortensen.

"A manual door with a handle on it would have been sufficient, and familiar.

Best not forget that for people who are less able an automatic door is quite helpful.


I have just ordered myself a copy of 'Regarding Heroes' so I hope that it arrives in one piece after crossing the Atlantic (apparently).

The electric doors are very useful for many people, but I can't help wondering about the positions chosen for the sensors. Rather than looking almost horizontally into the room or hallway, from above the door, it would often be more sensible to have the sensor a meter or so from the wall containing the door and 'looking' downwards and parallel to the wall, perhaps positioned on the ceiling. Simple masking of the sensor itself could then limit the action of the door to when someone approaches it, maybe into an area subtly marked out on the floor. Luckily I am not an architect, else I would know why door sensors are invariably specified to be as cheap and inconvenient as possible.

I like Karsh’s environmental portraits. I also like the scale of the prints in the exhibit.

MythBusters has an episode where they defeat a home security motion sensor with a white bed sheet. I wonder if some sort of soft partition extending out from the wall would have solved the door issue.

I think the best measure of Karsh's success in achieving his mission is the fact that when you think of so many significant people of his era the image of them that comes to mind is Karsh's portrait.

We're getting kinda off-topic here, but since we are, I'll mention that the only extant image of Roosevelt that shows his braces is the statue at one of his favorite places, Dowdell Knob on Pine Mountain, near his home at Warm Springs in Northwest Georgia. He is depicted seated on a bench, with his braces on the outside of his trousers.

I have a photo, but have never been able to figure out how to post one on this site.

Mike, there's a nice video by Sean Tucker that uses the story of Karsh's portrait of Winston Churchill as a lead-in to his take on the job of a portrait photographer. If you're not familiar with him, I think you'll like Sean Tucker's demeanor--and he's got an unusual backstory, too, that he opens up about in other videos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjybkV41YoE

I am coming really late on this article. I have seen that red chalk picture before which I believe originates from the Getty Archives. The orange value is too high I so I do not think it represents Sanguine correctly. It just may be a poor reproduction or the original print is more orange than most "Red Chalk" prints of that period. I bought some real sanguine chalk so I could figure out a method to accurately create the color digitally. Having done that I need to figure out what lens will give me a comparable soft quality with a good region of defocus. In a world of well focusing lenses, it is a difficult area to research but I have a few choices.


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