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Thursday, August 27, 1998

Photography by Yousef Karsh on Display Through October 25

SALISBURY, MD--When photographer Yousef Karsh set out to make a portrait of Winston Churchill in 1941, Great Britain's prime minister lighted a fresh cigar and puffed vigorously.
Karsh held out an ashtray, but Churchill ignored it. Karsh waited and Churchill continued to chomp on his stogie. Finally the photographer approached his subject and plucked the cigar out of his mouth.
 
"By the time I got back to my camera, he looked so belligerent he could have devoured me," Karsh recalled. "It was at that instant that I took the photograph."
 
Karsh's Churchill became one of the most widely reproduced images in the history of photography. Some have even suggested that the glowering, don't-mess-with-me image helped the Allies win World War II in Europe.
 
Now nearly 90-years-old, Karsh ranks as the most celebrated portrait photographer of the 20th century. In fact, during the 1940s, '50s and '60s, it seems that everyone who was anyone had to be "Karshed," as one of his subjects put it.
 
Now, running through October 25, an exhibit of more that 50 photographs of Karsh's most famous images will be in the University Gallery at Salisbury State. The glittering company includes U.S. presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, a young Princess Elizabeth before she became Queen; artists Picasso and Alexander Calder, film stars Clark Gable and Laurence Olivier, Albert Einstein, writers Ernest Hemingway and Robert Frost (with his dog); and the only color photo in the group, Pope John Paul II.
 
"It's a very nostalgic exhibit," said Ken Basile, director of the University Galleries. "I think people will enjoy it."
 
In his published works, Karsh reminisces about his famous subjects. He recalls how Harry Truman was "short of temper, long on common sense." Singer Jessye Norman was "enthusiastic and free of prima donna pretense." Hemingway was "a man of peculiar gentleness."
 
After more than 50 years, however, Karsh's favorite memory of a photo shoot was when Churchill said, "You can even make a roaring lion stand still to be photographed. "You may take another one."
 
The SSU exhibit is on loan from the Weston Gallery in Carmel, CA, and Karsh's personal archive. Admission is free and the public is invited. University Gallery hours are Tuesday- Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday noon-4 p.m. For more information call the University Galleries at 410-543-6271.
 


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