Yousuf Karsh was born on December 23, 1908 in the city of Mardin, which is now present day Turkey. As a young boy he watched his sister die of starvation and relatives massacred during the Armenian Genocide. The Ottoman Empire forced one of the world’s first modern genocides. As many as 1.5 million Armenian people were murdered. Yousuf fled to Syria with his family at age 14 where they found freedom of persecution. At 16, Yousuf was sent to live with his uncle George Nakash in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada. His uncle George was a photographer and Karsh assisted him at his studio. He also attended school in Canada briefly. Karsh’s brother was also a well known photographer for his famous image of logs floating down the river. His brother Malak, called his work “Paper and Politics”. This photo was later used on the Canadian one dollar bill. Yousuf went to do apprentice work in 1928 with John Garo. Garo lived in Boston, Massachusetts where he was a well known portrait photographer. Karsh apprenticed under Garo for four years and then returned to Canada feeling confident and ready to work on his own. He established his studio in Ottawa and within walking distance from the Canadian House of Commons. After making a name for himself and photographing celebrities of his generation, he was given permission by the Prime Minister of Canada to meet and photograph Winston Churchill in 1941. Churchill had given a speech to the House of Commons just three weeks after Pearl Harbor had been bombed and the United States entered World War II. The photo of Churchill is one of Karsh’s greatest portraits. You are looking into the eyes of a man seeing his country being bombed and destroyed almost every night from Nazi blitzkriegs. The photo is more than a portrait. It truly is a powerful work of art for many reasons and Karsh captured that through his work. Karsh was a master in lighting and capturing the essence...
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