Albert Einstein Sticking Out His Tongue
Winston Churchill by Yousuf Karsh
The Importance of Light
The two photographs above are the portraits of some of the most influential figures of the 20th century.The first picture is a famous photograph of Dr. Albert Einstein leaving his 72nd birthday party. This picture is one of the iconic photographs of Einstein and it has gone viral ever since its publication as it is even used in pop culture today. The second picture is a photograph of the former prime minister of UK, Sir Winston Churchill which was taken by photographer Yousef Karsh. This photograph was used as the cover for the LIFE magazine and Yousef Karsh garnered fame worldwide for his work. One may take a look and say that these are just some old black and white photographs of famous figures but there are numerous differences in terms of the mood, composition, and lighting. So how are these photographs so different?
The most obvious feature of the Einstein's portrait is the lightheartedness. Einstein's playful tongue suggests a light mood and Einstein's clothing suggests that the photograph was taken in a casual environment as well. And then if you shift your focus on to Einstein's face, you can see that there is a bright lighting over his face which came from the camera flash and this suggests that this portrait was taken up close and personal. It seems like this photograph just shows a playful genius at his birthday party. However, if you dig deeper, you can see that there are dark circles around his eyes which suggests that he is in a very tired, sleep deprived state. There are also countless wrinkles on his forehead and his messy trademark hair that reveals his true nature as a scientist who devoted his life to science and discovery. Even though all other elements such as the overall mood, lighting, and facial expression simply suggests a playful genius but I personally believe that this portrait goes beyond merely depicting a playful genius. I think that this photograph depicts a playful genius but also a man who is worn out from lifelong dedication to science. Beyond his cheerful expression, there is an exhaustion that we can't possibly fathom.
The primary feature of Sir Winston Churchill's portrait is the heavy mood which comes from dark lighting. The background is dark and there is a little light in the foreground. At a quick first glance, Sir Winston Churchill seems somewhat disgruntled. There is no smile to be found on his face and his facial expression shows no sign of his typical euphoria. He is wearing a formal suit and has removed his trademark cigar from his mouth. His hair has been well groomed and his eyes are staring directly into the camera. His right hand is fixed on his hip and his body is leaning against the chair. However, if you look at his eyes closely, you can tell that his eyes aren't glaring into the camera like an angry man would. Also, the wrinkles on his face are from agimg mot frowning. His left hand is gripping the chair firmly yet softly. With all this being said, I think that all of his body language come together to depict a battle hardened politician rather than a disgruntled man.
Going head to head, these two photographs depict two very opposite men. Einstein assumes a playful genius role while Churchill is a battle tested politician. The mood of these two photographs are practically polar opposite in the sense that one depicts a humorous side of a man while the other depicts a serious side of a man. A lot of this seems to be due to the difference in lighting that make these two photographs give off such opposite impressions. Einstein's portrait gives off a soft, and warm impression while Churchill's portrait gives off a cold, rigid impression. However, these photographs do share a similarity in the sense that they both show the effects that father time had on these two highly influential figures as you can see how their wrinkles show their dedication and service to the people and to the field of their work.
The genius who changed the world and the politician who saved the world. These two men have altered the course of history greatly with their work and service and their portraits show just one of the many sides to their personas. Although these photographs seem like just another portait of a famous figure in history, a closer look at them will tell a story about who they were. Thr body language played a huge factor in setting the tone but the lighting was the greatest factor of all as it set the overall mood for both photographs. As a result, these men were depicted very differently due to the differences in composition and lighting. It was fascinating to see how lighting had so much effect on the photograph, especially in black and white photographs.