Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf Karsh

Infobox Artist
bgcolour =
name = Yousuf Karsh

imagesize = 200px
caption = 1991 photo of Yousuf Karsh by Harry Palmer
birthname =
birthdate = December 23 1908
location = Mardin, the Ottoman Empire cite web | year = 2007 | url =| title = Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002)| format = HTML | publisher =| accessdate = 2007-07-18 | ]
deathdate = death date and age|2002|7|13|1908|12|23
deathplace = Boston, USA
nationality = Canadian
field = photography
training =
movement =
works = Portrait of Winston Churchill
patrons =
influenced by = John Garo
influenced =
awards = *Order of Canada

Yousuf Karsh, CC (December 23 1908 – July 13 2002) was a Canadian photographer of Armenian heritage, and one of the most famous and accomplished portrait photographers of all time.


Yousuf or Josuf (his given Armenian name was Hovsep) Karsh was born in Mardin, a city in the eastern Ottoman Empire (currently in Turkey). He grew up during the Armenian Genocide where he wrote, "I saw relatives massacred; my sister died of starvation as we were driven from village to village."cite web | year = 2007 | url =| title =Famous Pictures Magazine - Churchill’s Portrait| format = HTML | publisher = Famous Pictures Magazine| accessdate = 2007-07-18 | last= Lucas, Dean] At the age of 14, he fled with his family to Syria to escape persecution. ["Karsh, Hovsep". Soviet Armenian Encyclopedia. Yerevan, Armenian SSR, 1986, 430.] Two years later, his parents sent Yousuf to live with his uncle George Nakash, a photographer in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada. Karsh briefly attended school there and assisted in his uncle’s studio. Nakash saw great potential in his nephew and in 1928 arranged for Karsh to apprentice with portrait photographer John Garo in Boston, United States. His brother, Malak Karsh, was also a photographer famous for the image of logs floating down the river on the Canadian one dollar bill.cite web | year = 2007 | url =| title = Tulipmania: May 3-20| format = HTML | publisher =| accessdate = 2007-07-18 | ]

Karsh returned to Canada four years later, eager to make his mark. He established a studio in the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa, Ontario, close to Canada’s seat of government. Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King discovered Karsh and arranged introductions with visiting dignitaries for portrait sittings. Karsh's work attracted the attention of varied celebrities, but his place in history was sealed on 30 December, 1941 when he photographed Winston Churchill after Churchill gave a speech to Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa.cite web|authorlink=Winston Churchill
first=Winston|last=Churchill| url=|title=Quotations and Stories |format=HTML |publisher= |year=2007 |accessdate=2007-07-18 |language=English |quote= Some Chicken—Some Neck!

When I warned [the French] that Britain would fight on alone,whatever they did, their Generals told their Prime Minister and hisdivided cabinet: 'In three weeks, England will have her neck wrunglike a chicken.

Some chicken....Some neck!

—Canadian Parliament, Ottawa, 30 December 1941. Following this speech, Yousuf Karsh took his famous photographs of Churchill.

The image of Churchill brought Karsh international prominence, and is claimed to be the most reproduced photographic portrait in history. In 1967, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and in 1990 was promoted to Companion.

Of the 100 most notable people of the century, named by the "International Who’s Who" [2000] , Karsh had photographed 51. Karsh was also the only Canadian to make the list.

In the late 90s he moved to Boston and on July 13, 2002 (He was 93 years old) Karsh died at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital after complications following surgery. He was interred in Notre Dame Cemetery in Ottawa.


Karsh was a master of studio lights. One of Karsh's distinctive practices was lighting the subject's hands separately. He photographed many of the great and celebrated personalities of his generation. Throughout most of his career he used the 8×10 bellows Calumet (1997.0319) camera, made circa 1940 in Chicago.cite web | year = 2007 | url =| title = Cameras| format = HTML | publisher = CanadaScience andTechnology Museum| accessdate = 2007-07-18 | last= ] Journalist George Perry wrote in the British paper "The Sunday Times" that "when the famous start thinking of immortality, they call for Karsh of Ottawa."

Karsh had a gift for capturing the essence of his subject in the instant of his portrait. As Karsh wrote of his own work in "Karsh Portfolio" in 1967, "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. In that fleeting interval of opportunity the photographer must act or lose his prize."

Karsh said "My chief joy is to photograph the great in heart, in mind, and in spirit, whether they be famous or humble." His work is in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada, New York's Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art, George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, Bibliotheque nationale de France, the National Portrait Gallery in London, the National Portrait Gallery of Australia and many others. Library and Archives Canada holds his complete collection, including negatives, prints and documents. His photographic equipment was donated to the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa.cite web | year = 2007 | url =| title = Karsh of Ottawa Collection| format = HTML | publisher = Canada Science andTechnology Museum| accessdate = 2007-08-03 | last= ]

Karsh published 15 books of his photographs, which include brief descriptions of the sessions, during which he would ask questions and talk with his subjects to relax them as he composed the portrait. Some famous subjects photographed by Karsh were Albert Einstein, Albert Schweitzer, Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol, Audrey Hepburn, Clark Gable, Dwight Eisenhower, Ernest Hemingway, Fidel Castro, Jacqueline Kennedy, Frank Lloyd Wright, General Pershing, George Bernard Shaw, Georgia O'Keeffe, Grey Owl, Helen Keller, Humphrey Bogart, Indira Gandhi, John F. Kennedy, Laurence Olivier, Marian Anderson, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, Muhammad Ali, Pablo Casals, Pandit Nehru, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Paul Robeson, Joan Baez, Peter Lorre, Picasso, Chuck Jones, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Pope Pius XII, Pope John Paul II, Princess Elizabeth, Princess Grace, Prince Rainier of Monaco, Robert Frost, Ruth Draper, Jean Sibelius, W. H. Auden, Carl Jung, Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, the rock band Rush and, arguably his most famous portrait subject, Winston Churchill.

The story is often told of how Karsh created his famous portrait of Churchill during the early years of World War II. Churchill, the British prime minister, had just addressed the Canadian Parliament and Karsh was there to record one of the century's great leaders. "He was in no mood for portraiture and two minutes were all that he would allow me as he passed from the House of Commons chamber to an anteroom," Karsh wrote in "Faces of Our Time". "Two niggardly minutes in which I must try to put on film a man who had already written or inspired a library of books, baffled all his biographers, filled the world with his fame, and me, on this occasion, with dread."

Churchill marched into the room scowling, "regarding my camera as he might regard the German enemy." His expression suited Karsh perfectly, but the cigar stuck between his teeth seemed incompatible with such a solemn and formal occasion. "Instinctively, I removed the cigar. At this the Churchillian scowl deepened, the head was thrust forward belligerently, and the hand placed on the hip in an attitude of anger."

The image captured Churchill and the Britain of the time perfectly — defiant and unconquerable. Churchill later said to him, "You can even make a roaring lion stand still to be photographed." As such, Karsh titled the photograph, "The Roaring Lion".

However, Karsh's favourite photograph was the one taken immediately after this one where Churchill's mood had lightened considerably and is shown much in the same pose, but smiling.

Karsh has influenced many other photographers in different styles to become more independent and further motivate other artists.

In 2005, the city of Ottawa established the Karsh Prize, honoring Ottawa photo-based artists, in honor of Yousuf and Malak Karsh. ["The Picture of Excellence," "The Ottawa Citizen", 14 February 2005, p. B4.]


* "Faces of destiny; portraits by Karsh" (1946)
* "Canada: as seen by the camera of Yousuf Karsh and described in words by John Fisher" (1960)
* "In search of greatness; reflections of Yousuf Karsh" (1962)
* "Karsh portfolio" (1967)
* "Faces of Our Time" (1971)
* "Karsh portraits" (1976)
* "Karsh Canadians" (1978)
* "Karsh: a fifty-year retrospective" (1983)
* "Karsh: American legends" (1992)
*"Portrait in Light and Shadow: the Life of Yousuf Karsh" (2007)
* " [ Karsh: A Biography in Images] " (MFA Publications, 2004)


External links

* [ Yousuf Karsh Official Website]
* [ Yousuf Karsh Biography]
* [ Yousuf Karsh: A Selective Bibliography]
* [ Portraits by Yousuf Karsh at the National Gallery of Canada]
* [ Yousuf Karsh Photographic Equipment Collection]
* [ Yousuf Karsh image gallery at CBC]
* [ Interview with Mrs. Estrellita Karsh at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (8/2008)]
* [

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Yousuf Karsh — Yousuf Karsh, CC (* 23. Dezember 1908 in Mardin, Türkei als Howsep Karshian; † 13. Juli 2002 in Boston, USA) war ein kanadischer Fotograf armenischer …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Yousuf Karsh — Yousuf Karsh, autorretrato. Yousuf Karsh (Mardin, 1908 Boston, 2002) fue un fotógrafo canadiense de origen armenio.[1] …   Wikipedia Español

  • Yousuf Karsh — (23 décembre 1908, Mardin, Turquie 13 juillet 2002, Boston) est un photographe canadien d origine arménienne. Sommaire 1 Biographie 2 Quelques portraits célèbres …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Karsh — may refer to:;People * Efraim Karsh, historian of the Middle East * Malak Karsh, Canadian photographer, brother of Yousuf * Yousuf Karsh, Canadian photographer, brother of Malak;Other * Karsh, a character in the video game Chrono Cross * Karsh, a …   Wikipedia

  • Karsh — ist der Name folgender Personen: Efraim Karsh (* 1953), Historiker des Nahen Ostens Yousuf Karsh (1908–2002), Kanad. Fotograf armenischer Herkunft Diese Seite ist eine Begriffsklärung zur Unterscheidung mehrerer mit demselben …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Karsh —   [kɑːʃ], Yousuf, kanadischer Fotograf armenischer Herkunft, * Mardin 23. 12. 1908, ✝ Boston (Massachusetts) 13. 7. 2002; lebte seit 1924 in Kanada. 1932 eröffnete er ein Porträtstudio in Ottawa. Karsh erlangte Weltruhm als Porträtist führender… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Karsh, Yousuf — born Dec. 23, 1908, Mardin, Tur. died July 13, 2002, Boston, Mass., U.S. Turkish born Canadian photographer. As an Armenian in Turkey, he endured persecution before emigrating at 16 to Canada, where he joined his photographer uncle. He worked for …   Universalium

  • Karsh, Yousuf — (23 dic. 1908, Mardin, Turquía–13 jul. 2002, Boston, Mass., EE.UU.). Fotógrafo canadiense de origen turco. En su calidad de armenio en Turquía, sufrió la persecución antes de emigrar a Canadá a los 16 años de edad, donde se reunió con su tío… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Karsh — /kahrsh/, n. Yousuf /yoh seuhf, yooh /, born 1908, Canadian photographer, born in Turkey. * * * …   Universalium

  • Karsh — /kaʃ/ (say kahsh) noun Yousuf /ˈjʊsəf/ (say yoosuhf), 1908–2002, Canadian photographer, born in Armenia …   Australian-English dictionary

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