You can even make a roaring lion stand still to be photographed.
-Winston Churchill to Yousuf Karsh
Yousuf Karsh (1908 - 2002)
Yousuf Karsh was born in the town of Mardin in Armenia, December 23 1908. He grew up in Armenia during the infamous massacres, before his uncle, George Nakash, brought him and his brother, Malak Karsh to Canada in 1924.
Nakash was a portrait photo, and let Karsh goof around with his equipment. It soon became apparent that Karsh had talent, and his uncle offered to send him to Boston, to become the apprentice of John Garo, then one of the top US portrait photographers.
Yousuf Karsh opened his first studio in Ottawa in 1932, where the Canadian prime minister Mackenzie King became friends with him. King helped Karsh by commissioning portraits of visiting dignitaries. Because of this practice, Karsh’ sudden claim to fame came in 1941, when a portrait he took of Winston Churchill made him a big name in the photography world. And what a name:
According to the CBC, Karsh was the only Canadian in the “100 most famous people” list in the 2000 edition of Who’s Who. It is worth mentioning that Karsh had photographed more than half of the people on that list throughout his career. Karsh was known as, and signed his photographs, Karsh of Ottawa.
Despite his soon-to-be world fame, Karsh always continued to be a humble man, and it was not until after his death that the stories of his greatness were told in the newspapers, by his wife and friends.
Yousuf Karsh died 93 years old, in a hospital in Boston July 13, 2002 after complications following surgery.
Karsh was famous for his vivid, yet subtle portraits. He has taken world famous pictures of (among others) Albert Einstein, Ernest Hemingway, Fidel Castro, Pablo Picasso and Winston Churchill. Many of his pictures are on permanent display, among other in the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Institute of Chicago, The London National Portrait Gallery, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
You can see his images here: