family escaped, fleeing to a refugee camp

Topics: ArtPhotography


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Last updated: December 31, 2019

Yousuf Karsh is remembered as a famous Armenian-Canadian photographer, well known for his portraits of notable people.

On December 23, 1908 Yousuf Karsh was born in Mardin, Turkey, during the Armenian genocide. Fortunately, Karsh survived, but several of his family members did not make it. When Karsh was fourteen years old, he and the remainders of his family escaped, fleeing to a refugee camp in Syria. Less than a year later, Karsh was sent to Canada in order to evade living in poverty. When he arrived in Quebec, Canada, Karsh met and was taken in by his uncle George Nakashian, a portrait photographer. Karsh decided to take interest in photography and begun working for and was taught photography by his uncle. Several years later, after adequate time spent with his uncle, Karsh took up apprenticeship under America’s most prominent Armenian photographer, John H.

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Garo. Garo had made a name for himself photographing famous celebrities and Karsh was sure that this opportunity could make him well known too.
In 1932, Yousuf Karsh set up and later opened his first studio in Ottawa, Canada. In his studio, Karsh studied and worked on many portraits. His work was extremely intriguing and impressed Canada’s Prime Minister Mackenzie King. King and Karsh became close and in 1941, King helped Karsh earn his prominence.

When Great Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill came to Ottawa to speak on the subject of World War 2, King arranged for Karsh to photograph Churchill. After this shoot, Karsh became a renowned photographer throughout Canada. It was only after this shoot when Karsh really started shooting his wanted celebrities. Over the course of the next twenty-two years Karsh photographed many WW2 generals, Ernest Hemingway, George Bernard Shaw, President Eisenhower, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Nikita Khrushchev. Other works shot by Karsh included the Ford assembly line workers in Ontario, landscapes in Rome and the Holy Land, and an annual poster for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Yousuf Karsh has been recognized as Canada’s leading portrait photographer, and is one of the best-known portrait photographers from the twentieth century. After his death in Boston, MA, on July 13, 2002, many of his works were permanently displayed at art museums all across the world to be studied and admired. All of the time and dedication Karsh put into aspiring his goal of being a famous portrait photographer has definitely paid off as he now inspires many young photographers to do the same.

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