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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Yousuf Karsh

Names:
Other: Jousuf Karsh 
Dates:  1908, 23 December - 2002, 13 July
Born:  Turkey, Turkish Armenia, Mardin
Active:  Canada
 
  
Probably the most famous portrait photographer in the world, Karsh presents living sculptures to the cameras, monumental presences achieved by dramatic use of light and total concentration on the sitter.
 
[Contributed by Pam Roberts]

Preparing biographies


Biography provided by Focal Press 
  
Born in Armenia, he escaped the Turkish persecution, emigrating to Canada in 1924. Opened a portrait studio in Ottawa in 1932 where he established a reputation for photographing the powerful and famous of his era. His view-camera portraits were known for their clarity and dramatic lighting, emphasizing highlights, shadows, and rich textures. His 1941 LIFE cover of the imposing, wartime, bulldog-faced Winston Churchill infused the subject’s personality with his public image to reveal what Karsh said was the sitter’s "inner power." 
  
(Author: Robert Hirsch - Independent scholar and writer) 
  
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 
  

Further research

 
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Yousuf Karsh
Self portrait of Yousuf Karsh 
1980 (ca)
 
  
Family history 
  
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch. 
  
alan@luminous-lint.com
 
  
 
  

Visual indexes

 
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Visual indexes for this photographer are available for subscribers.There is so much more to explore when you subscribe. 
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Internet biographies

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Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer.Show on this siteGo to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online (www.groveart.com) has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
Show on this siteGo to website
The International Photographers Hall of Fame has provided a biography.Show on this siteGo to website
 

Internet resources

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Yousuf Karsh 
http://www.geh.org ... 
  
The Good, The Great & The Gifted
Camera Portraits by Yousuf Karsh and Althol Shmith 
http://www.nga.gov.au ... 
Yousuf Karsh (1908–2002) of Ottawa and Athol Shmith (1914–1990) of Melbourne are 20th-century examples of portrait photographers. 
  
 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

 
• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
  
• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.178 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
  
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.275-277 
  
• Evans, Martin Marix (Executive ed.) 1995 Contemporary Photographers [Third Edition] (St. James Press - An International Thomson Publishing Company) [Expensive reference work but highly informative.] 
  
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Yousuf Karsh.] 
  
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.171-172 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.] 
  
 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

 
• Gruber, Renate and L. Fritz Gruber 1982 The Imaginary Photo Museum (New York: Harmony Books) p.251 
  
• Sobieszek, Robert A. and Deborah Irmas 1994 the camera i: Photographic Self-Portraits (Los Angeles: LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art) p.221, Plate 79 [When the Audrey and Sydney Irmas collection was donated to LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1992 the museum gained a remarkable collection of self portraits of notable photographers. If you need a portrait of Yousuf Karsh this is a useful starting point.] 
  

Collections

Photographic collections are a useful means of examining large numbers of photographs by a single photographer on-line. 
  

 
In the 1990 survey of 535 American photographic collections Yousuf Karsh was represented in 63 of the collections. Source: Andrew H. Eskind & Greg Drake (eds.) 1990 Index to American Photographic Collections [Second Enlarged Edition] (Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall & Co.) 
  
 

Quotations

The wit and wisdom.

 
"Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness."
"I try to photograph people‘s spirits and thoughts. As to the soul—taking by the photographer, I don‘t feel I take away, but rather that the sitter and I give to each other. It becomes an act of mutual participation."
"I try to reveal the most innate trait of the personality of my subjects. I must go beyond appearances."
"If it‘s a likeness, alone, it‘s not a success. If, through my portraits, you can come to know the subjects more meaningfully, if it synthesizes your feelings toward someone whose work has imprinted itself on your mind—-if you see a photograph and say, ‘Yes, this is the person‘, with a little new insight--that is a beautiful experience."
"Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera."
"The trouble with photographing beautiful women is that you never get into the dark room until after they‘ve gone."
"There is a brief moment when all there is in a man‘s mind and soul and spirit is reflected through his eyes, his hands, his attitude. This is the moment to record."
"When one sees the residuum of greatness before one‘s camera, one must recognize it in a flash. There is a brief moment when all that there is in a man‘s mind and soul and spirit may be reflected through his eyes, his hands, his attitude. This is the moment to record. This is the elusive ‘moment of truth‘."
"Within every man and woman a secret is hidden, and as a photographer it is my task to reveal it if I can."
 
  
 
  
 
  
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