Photographer Yousuf Karsh, known for his portraits of stars and world leaders, died Saturday July 13 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston after undergoing surgery. He was 93.
He was best known for his World War II portraits of Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower and other Allied leaders. But he is also remembered for his classic pictures of George Bernard Shaw, Ernest Hemingway, Georgia O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol.
Born in Mardin, Turkey, to Armenian parents, he immigrated in 1924 to Canada, where an uncle was a studio portrait photographer and taught him the trade. Eventually he opened a studio in Ottowa, where theater in particular played a role in his evolution as a portraitist: He learned dramatic use of light at the Ottawa Little Theater, where he was a member.
And through that theater he met the son of Canada’s governor general, who persuaded his father to sit for Karsh, which in turn gave the photographer entree to capturing the formal images of Canadian officials and through one of them Churchill during the wartime leader’s visit to Canada. That famous photo made Karsh’s career.
The Canadian government sent Karsh to London to photograph other Brit leaders, Life magazine assigned him to photograph American war chiefs, and by the end of the war, he published his first book, “Faces of Destiny” and was known throughout the world for his sympathetic portraits of the famous and powerful.
Other books in the following decades included “In Search of Greatness: Reflections of Yousuf Karsh,” “Portraits of Greatness,” “Faces of Our Time,” “Karsh Portraits,” “Photographs of Yousuf Karsh: Men Who Make Our World” and “Karsh: A Fifty-Year Retrospective.”
His works are in numerous museums and collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Intl. Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Portrait Gallery in London.
He is survived by his wife, Estrellita Maria Nachbar; a brother; and a nephew.