Yousuf Karsh

Eyridiki Sellou | Nov 25, 2023

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Yousuf Karsh, born December 23, 1908 in Mardin, Turkey, and died July 13, 2002 in Boston, USA, was a Canadian portrait photographer of Armenian origin.

He is one of the masters of black and white silver photography. He made the portrait of about 11 000 personalities.

Born on December 23, 1908, into the large Christian Armenian community of Mardin in southern Anatolia (Turkey), young Yousuf was forced to leave his homeland with his family at the age of 15 to escape the Armenian genocide. The Karsh family emigrated to Syria, and in 1924, one of their own, young Yousuf, moved to Canada to join his uncle Georges Nakash, a renowned portrait photographer in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

It was there that he received his first training in photography and was later sent to Boston, USA, to study with John Garo, the most prominent photographer of the aristocracy and celebrities of the time.

After several years in the United States, he returned to Canada in 1932 and opened his own studio in Ottawa, the country's capital. He started out as a stage photographer and quickly became the photographer of high society, whose reputation spread far beyond the limits of the Canadian capital. He married Solange Gauthier in 1939. From 1972 to 1993, he will have his studio and his residence at the Château Laurier.

When war broke out in 1939, Ottawa became a center of activity for the Allied coalition and "Karsh of Ottawa" became the photographer of the most important Allied leaders. He was naturally chosen to take the portrait of Winston Churchill when Churchill visited Canada in 1941.

The portrait of Winston Churchill

Taken on the spot, Karsh's photograph immortalizes Winston Churchill as strong-willed, determined and ready to face the challenges of war. The photo would make its author famous around the world.

The taciturn look on Churchill's face in this portrait was due to the fact that Churchill never took his cigar out of his mouth and intended to keep it there for the duration of the shoot, despite repeated requests from the photographer to do so for a photo. After making sure that everything was ready, Yousuf Karsh promptly removed the cigar from Churchill's mouth and then took the picture of the outraged Churchill, who would only accept this one shot. This unique live shot became famous around the world and was one of the most reproduced photos in the history of photography.

Canadian Citizen

In recognition of his contribution to the country's culture, Karsh received a "Certificate of Canadian Citizenship" in 1947. He was among the first to be so honoured, as the Canadian Citizenship Act had only recently been approved by the Parliament of Canada. An avid traveller, Karsh maintained studios and photographic facilities in London, Paris, New York and Ottawa. He became the photographer of the most prominent personalities of his day, taking portraits of some 11,000 political, artistic, scientific and other celebrities until his retirement in 1992.

Including: Albert Einstein, Albert Schweitzer, Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol, Audrey Hepburn, Clark Gable, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ernest Hemingway, Fidel Castro, Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, Frank Lloyd Wright, John Pershing, George Bernard Shaw, Georgia O'Keeffe, Helen Keller, Humphrey Bogart, Indira Gandhi, Hans Hartung, John F. Kennedy, Laurence Olivier, Mohamed Ali, Pablo Casals, Pandit Nehru, Peter Lorre, Pablo Picasso, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Queen Elizabeth II, Grace Kelly, Rainier of Monaco, Nikita Khrushchev

Yousuf Karsh, who died on July 13, 2002 in Boston, is considered one of the most important portrait photographers of the 20th century.

Yousuf Karsh, maître photographe du XXe siècle : https :


  1. Yousuf Karsh
  2. Yousuf Karsh
  3. ^ Armenian sources sometimes refer to him as Hovsep Karsh,[3][4][5] which is the Armenian equivalent of Yousuf. Both are variants of the name Joseph.
  4. (en) ISOBEL WARREN, « Karsh returns 'in spirit' to Chateau Laurier suite », the,‎ 2 août 2007 (lire en ligne, consulté le 2 juin 2017)
  6. Татьяна Тиора. Юсуф Карш: портреты людей, изменивших 20-й век (рус.). Cameralabs. Дата обращения: 19 августа 2022.
  7. 1 2 Фотографии XX века. Музей Людвига в Кёльне / ответственный = пер. с англ. А.А. Сосинова. — Издательство АТС, 2008. — ISBN 978-5-17-047116-4.

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