Biography of Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002)

Canadian photographer of Turkish origin born in Mardin in 1908 and died in Boston (USA).UU.) on July 13, 2002.

In 1924, at the age of 16 years, Karsh immigrated to Canada, where he/she settled under the tutelage of his uncle, the prestigious photographer George Nakash. It was he/she who got hooked with photography and who learned the bases of the trade. This training was completed with classes that received in Boston of the portrait photographer John H. Garo, who not only taught him the technique of the portrait, but it opened for themselves the exciting world of painting and art in general.

Photography ceased to be a trade, becoming a passion for Karsh: "infinite fascination I feel for the people that I photograph is, in what to my concerns, what I call inner strength." He/She participates in this hardly explainable secret that each one carries in itself. Trying to capture it on film is and will be my ultimate goal."

It was thus, in 1923, he/she moved to Ottawa, where he/she opened her own photographic Portrait Studio. It quickly gained a reputation as a talented portraitist, counting among its customers with the most important personalities of politics, science, art, and society. But its maximum impact obtained it in 1941, thanks to the portrait that was Winston Churchill, who would appear on the cover of Life magazine, and photography that got its deserved international projection, being one of the most reproduced portraits of the world. In it, the figure of the President appears great, standing, leaning on his cane, and despite appearing at a medium level, Churchill look pierces the Viewer as a sharp knife. Against light highlights his haughty personality and trim the background, concise and elegant.

In addition to Churchill, before their goal they posed characters such as George Bernard Shaw (in 1943), Jawaharlal Nehru (in 1949) and Martha Graham (in 1959), extracting all the expression of his personality of each one of them. Thus, the image offered by Nehru is a quiet image, quiet...; profile, crossed hands hold his Chin while his downward gaze betrays the presence of something outside the frame. Black and white becomes flawless, allowing a reading right of each of its pores. Not so on the Graham, where large contrasts, together with the force of her pose, absent gaze, hands with marked veins, makeup, etc., offer the viewer a disquieting aggressiveness.

Despite this, not all the work of Karsh is limited to enclose his sitters within the four walls of his Studio, but that the photographer liked also capture their models in their own family environment. Throughout his career he/she frequently published a large number of albums for portraits and curious anecdotes about the genesis of the same.