Friday, December 18, 2009

Karsh: Roman Vishniac, 1971

The Karsh exhibit was great. To see so many of his prints in one day was amazing, and the portrait of Roman Vishniac stood out to me the most. Lots of Karsh's work has lots of darker tones in it (or perhaps it could have just been the lighting in the WAG), so when I came across this portrait of Roman Vishniac (a biologist and photographer), I was very interested. This portrait is heavily backlit, and seemed so bright and unique. The majority of Karsh's portraits show a lot of detail on the person's face that he photographs, and in this portrait he gave his subject a lot more room, filling Vishniac's entire torso in the frame. It was quite refreshing to view a piece that has given the subject more space in the frame. As far as darkroom techniques go, I would assume that he upped the contrast quite a bit and perhaps did some flashing to darken down the sky a tad. A little dodging of Vishniac's face could have been performed as well. Compositionally speaking, the photo is fantastic. I love the use of the silhouette that is symmetrically balanced with the microscope. The backlighting allows this relationship between Vishniac and the microscope to be simple, and creates implied shape. Of course - Vishniac is situated in the upper third of the frame. The only critique I would have of this photo would be the line on the left hand side that is falling behind Vishniac. It is distracting and I'm not too sure as to what it is - a building? I guess with modern photoshop techniques this could be erased, which I think would further help to support the symmetry in the frame. I'm not sure how you would get rid of the building with a dark room technique - perhaps a ton of dodging? No idea. Despite the distracting building, Karsh's darkroom techniques and skill with great composition created one of my favorite portraits in Karsh's collection.


- LC Murdoch