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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
"To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It's a way of life." ~ Henri Cartier-Bresson

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Photographer Profile ~ Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf Karsh,  (1908 – 2002) was a Canadian photographer of Armenian heritage,[ and one of the most famous and accomplished portrait photographers of all time.

Karsh  grew up in Turkish Armenia in a modest environment and in difficult political conditions. He immigrated to Canada in 1924 at the age of sixteen, where he lived with his uncle, a photographer in  Sherbrooke, Quebec.  He went to school there and worked for his uncle who in return trained him in photography. At his uncle’s recommendation, in 1928 he apprenticed in the Boston studio of photographer John Garo, who taught him to see his subject in terms of light, shadow, and form.  These three elements would become key in Karsh’s practice. His entire career he favoured dramatic lighting in which light is the photographer’s favourite device. In 1932 he settled in Ottawa where he opened his photography studio. He became friends with certain Canadian politicians who allowed him to meet and photograph several political personalities of the time.

At age thirty-three he immortalized Sir Winston Churchill on film. This portrait is surely Karsh’s best-known photograph and the one most reproduced in history. The back lighting that shapes the face accentuates the famous politician’s expression while conferring upon him strength, power and intelligence.
Throughout his prolific career, Karsh published more than ten books combining photographs and personal annotations. In 1989, the National Gallery of Canada organized a large retrospective of his work. A two-time recipient of the Order of Canada for lifetime achievement, he is also the only Canadian to appear on the list of one hundred names in the International Who’s Who.  His works are found in several collections throughout the world. [via National Gallery]

Karsh ~ Self Portrait

Karsh ~ Self Portrait

Winston Churchill

It was one of the most famous portraits ever made. Some say it is the most reproduced image in history. Karsh had asked Churchill to remove the cigar for the photographic portrait. When Churchill refused, Karsh, then 33, walked up to the great man, said, “Forgive me, sir,” and calmly snatched the cigar from Churchill’s lips. As Churchill glowered at the camera, Karsh snapped the picture. Karsh regards that portrait as among his three favourites, the other two being portraits of George Bernard Shaw and Eleanor Roosevelt. 

The Churchill portrait made Karsh famous. He knew he had done an excellent job, but at the time he didn’t know how to market it. He sought advice from B.K. Sandwell, the publisher of the magazine Saturday Night. All Sandwell could advise Karsh was that he get an agent.
Whether he did or not isn’t clear, but Karsh eventually sold the photograph of Churchill to Life, which first used it on an inside page, then as its cover on May 21, 1945. After seeing Karsh’s photo of Churchill on the cover of Life, war correspondent Edward R. Murrow wrote, “Ah, here is the face which marshalled the English language and sent it into battle when we had little else.”
The magazine paid Karsh the munificent sum of $100.

Ernest Hemingway


Mohammed Ali

 Mother Teresa

Within every man and woman a secret is hidden, and as a photographer it is my task to reveal it if I can. The revelation, if it comes at all, will come in a small fraction of a second with an unconscious gesture, a gleam of the eye, a brief lifting of the mask that all humans wear to conceal their innermost selves from the world.”
–Yousuf Karsh

Albert Einstein

Fidel Castro

"when the famous start thinking of immortality, they call for Karsh of Ottawa."~ The Sunday Times

Audrey Hepburn
Andy Warhol

Brigitte Bardot

Grace Kelly

Writer/existentialist ~ Albert Camus

Alfred Hitchcock

Alberto Giacometti

Dwight Eisenhower

Jacque Cousteau
Humphrey Bogart
Playwright ~George Bernard Shaw


Artist ~ Georgia Okeefe

Tennessee Williams

Character Actor ~ Peter Lorre
John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir (1875 –1940) was a Scottish novelist, poet, and politician; he was Governor-General of Canada from 1935 to 1940.

 Nelson Mandela 
 Kenneth “Tiny” Stirtzinger, Atlas Steels, 1950

Ingot Pouring Atlas Steel ~ 1945

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