Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002)

Yousuf Karsh, also dubbed “Karsh of Ottowa”, was born December 23rd, 1908 in Mardin, Ottoman Empire.


At a young age Karsh endured the intensity of the Turkish persecution of the Armenian people, travelling on foot with his family in search of refuge in Aleppo, Syria. Karsh’s family gathered enough funds to send him to live with his photographer uncle in Quebec. In Canada, Yousuf learned the art and science of photography from his uncle, and served as an apprentice to John H. Garo from 1928 to 1931. Through Garo he learned about artificial lighting, which formed Karsh’s signature style.

Karsh became known for his portraits of authors, scientists, artists, statesmen, musicians, and other distinguished individuals in his highly contrasted and expertly lighted set ups. His photographs present the viewer with an intimate and compassionate view of humanity. He published several books such as Faces of Destiny (1946), Portraits of Greatness (1959), In Search of Greatness (1962), Faces of Our Time (1971), Karsh Canadians (1978), and Karsh: A Sixty-Year Retrospective (1996). Karsh often worked with the Canadian government and became a naturalized citizen in 1947. Fifty years later, Karsh moved to Boston with his second wife, where he passed away on July 13th, 2002. Karsh is forever immortalized as a master 20th Century photography.