In his portrait of Winston Churchil, Yousuf Karsh was able to capture the entirety of resolve and determination that would come to define the English spirit of WWII. All this with one click. Perhaps this is why it has become one of the most widely reproduced photographs in history. As I wandered between the various portraits hanging in the lobby of the Chateau Laurier (Einstein, Leacock and Cassals to name a few) I naturally began to reflect upon my own growth as a portrait phot\ographer, and as an artist in general. What I have decided as a "sole" certainty is that my growth as an artist is measured by the abundance of questions I discover within myself. It's almost perrenial; I grow, I achieve, I question, I grow again. In other words, the more I think I know the more I realize I really don't. Perhaps this is the nature of my "artism".
So as not to venture too far into an existential tangent, I'll reel this back to the original point of this entry; reality in art. This question was sparked in my mind by, of all things, the "Quirks & Quarks" year in review panel (Q&Q is a CBC science broadcast). In this segment a group of distinguished physicists posited their "need to know" questions for the next decade. Among them an Austrian physicist questioning our own perception of reality and realism on the quantum level. Is what we think as "real"... real? (Apparently in quantum mechanics this is not so easily an answered question) Back to the reality of this blog, when I began my journey into photography I was very much conditioned to observe and recreate what, within my peer group, was generally accepted and identified as art. As I began to develop my own sensibility, identity and confidence as an artist, what I perceived as artistic representations of my world began to grow and change as well. That is, afterall, what we as "artists" do... isn't it? This sparked a dramatic change in the nature and quality of my output. I was less and less obsessed with the technical output and more and more concerned with the expressive output. This what I identify in Karsh's work, not his technical proficiency (that indeed can be "learned") rather his unmatched ability to peek behind the curtain of the subject's soul. One click, one more story told. The artist in Karsh emerges from his talent in working with the raw materials at hand. This is in no means a dismissal of contemporary trends in digital enhancement and manipulation, indeed a photographer skilled in digital manipulation is no less imaginative nor talented at working with the same raw materials. But as with Karsh, the real measure of the output is found in the expressive qualities of the artist.