Teachers Lesson Plans

Drawing With Light

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Hermann Carl Eduard Biewend, Hermann and Mathilde (née Biewend) Koch and Children (including Robert Koch) with Helene Biewend and Children at Clausthal, 1854 and Yousuf Karsh, Martin Luther King (1929-1968), 1962

How does each photographer approach the portrait?

Hermann Carl Eduard Biewend photographed his family and friends. This portrait shows his wife and two children, and his sister and her family. Yousuf Karsh devoted himself to photographing famous people. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s.

Both portraits were taken "on location." Biewend's group is posed outside his sister's home in Germany. A reverend, King is photographed in his home church in Atlanta, Georgia. The two photographers treat their settings quite differently. In Biewend's photograph, the sitters are placed full-length within the setting. The setting is integral to the composition, and to our understanding of the portrait as an intimate and informal family gathering. Karsh does away with the setting entirely, focussing instead on his sitter's face. This is a psychological portrait. It conveys King's visionary and heroic attributes.

While Biewend had to deal with changing light and weather conditions, Karsh had complete control of his lighting. The fine detail and delicate surface of Biewend's daguerreotype give the image a quality quite different from the glossy tones of Karsh's gelatin silver print.