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August 13, 2012

The Greatest Portraits Ever Taken by Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002) was an Armenian-Canadian photographer, 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 (present Turkey). He grew up during a time when he as a child and he and his family witnessed the great famine of the period, costing the family the life of Yousuf's sister, and the ensuing 1918 pandemic along with the atrocities and severely harsh measurements of mass deportation by the authorities on the Armenian minorities living in the Ottoman Empire, the so called "the sick man of Europe". He later wrote, "I saw relatives massacred; my sister died of starvation as we were driven from village to village."

At the age of 14, he fled with his family to Syria to escape persecution. 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, Massachusetts, 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.

Karsh returned to Canada four years later, eager to make his mark. In 1931 he started working with another photographer, John Powls, in his studio on the second floor of the Hardy Arcade at 130 Sparks Street in Ottawa, Ontario, close to Parliament Hill. When Powls retired in 1933, Karsh took over the studio. Karsh's first solo exhibition was in 1936 in the Drawing Room of the Château Laurier hotel. He moved his studio into the hotel in 1973, and it remained there until he retired in 1992.

Albert Einstein

Albert Schweitzer

Alberto Giacometti

Alfred Hitchcock

Andy Warhol

Audrey Hepburn

Brigitte Bardot

Elizabeth Taylor

Ernest Hemingway

Fidel Castro

Frank Lloyd Wright

François Mauriac

General Dwight Eisenhower

George Bernard Shaw

Georgia O’Keeffe

Grace Kelly

Helen Keller, with Polly Thompson

Humphrey Bogart

Jacqueline Kennedy

Jacques Cousteau

Jasper Johns

Jean Sibelius

Jessye Norman

Joan Miró

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Man Ray

Marian Anderson

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Mother Teresa

Muhammad Ali

Nelson Mandela

Pablo Casal

Pablo Picasso

Paul Claudel

Peter Lorre

Pope Pius XII

Robert Frost

Thomas Cullen

Vladimir Nabokov


Winston Churchill


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