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In This Issue:
A story lies in each of the 23 Yousuf Karsh photographs adorning Brigham Circle Medical Associates in the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center.
Dancer Rudolf Nureyev gazes out from a photograph on the wall behind the front desk. When taking that photograph in 1977, Karsh had instructed Nureyev to show him “the love, the charming person, the seductor,” said Estrellita Karsh, wife of the late Yousuf Karsh. “Rudolf did, and this portrait is interesting, welcoming and charming to patients when they enter.”
Mrs. Karsh brought this and other stories to life last week as she guided practice director Marshall Wolf, MD, and BWH President Gary Gottlieb, MD, MBA, on a tour of the black and white photographs she recently donated to the practice.
Mrs. Karsh was with Yousuf, one of the world’s most celebrated and accomplished portrait photographers, when he captured many famous subjects. She has donated a total of 77 of his photographs to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, featured in the Healers of Our Age collection along the Nesson Pike, as well as in the Bretholtz Center for Patients and Families, the Gretchen and Edward Fish Center for Women’s Health, the NICU and Physical Therapy at Brigham and Women’s Ambulatory Care Center at 850 Boylston St.
In Brigham Circle Medical Associates, as with the other areas, Mrs. Karsh gives the utmost consideration to the framing, lighting and placement of each photograph so that it has the greatest impact on those who see it. She came to Shapiro during its construction stages in a hard hat to scout potential locations for the photographs, which she carefully selected to reflect the diverse interests of staff and patients in the practice.
Next to the check-in desk in the waiting area, for example, hangs a 55- by 44-inch portrait of pediatric cardiologist Helen Taussig, MD, with a baby and the baby’s mother. “I think that is the essence of healing,” said Mrs. Karsh, noting that although there are no infant patients in this practice, “we are, in a sense, all of us babies.”
The waiting area walls boast black and white landscapes that Karsh photographed in the 1950s. “I didn’t want portraits here,” explained Mrs. Karsh. “I wanted patients to be able to look at a unique photo and immerse themselves in it and dream a little.”
Actress Joan Crawford’s photograph hangs above a staff telephone in the corridor. “I thought, who should we put next to the phone everybody has to use?” said Mrs. Karsh. “Somebody with an attitude. A tough lady who reinvented herself from dancer Lucille Leseur to Joan Crawford, the great movie star.”
Among the other notable figures whose photographs grace the practice are Robert Frost, Tennessee Williams, Georgia O’Keefe, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Man Ray, Anna Magnani and Marian Anderson.
Gottlieb paused at Marian Anderson, the singer who may be best remembered for her Easter 1939 performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. “It’s amazing,” he said of the portrait. “We thank Mrs. Karsh for her unbelievable generosity. We’re fortunate that the Brigham is home to such breathtaking and important photographs.”