Yousuf Karsh

Photographer

Born: 23 December 1908
Died: 13 July 2002 (complications from surgery)
Birthplace: Mardin, Ottoman Empire (now Turkey)
Best known as: Photographer of the famous grumpy Churchill portrait
Yousuf Karsh's dramatic glimpses of public figures like Winston Churchill and Ernest Hemingway made him one of the most famous portrait photographers of the 20th century. Karsh and his family fled Armenia when he was 15 years old. He ended up in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, where he learned photography and gained access to prominent national and international figures just as World War II was beginning. He worked mostly in black and white, with a large 8x10 view camera, often catching his subjects in surprisingly intimate or pensive moments. (His famous 1941 portrait of a glowering Churchill was snapped after Karsh snatched a cigar from between the prime minister's lips.) Many of his portraits were printed in Life magazine, giving Karsh even wider exposure. Among his subjects were Albert Einstein, Andy Warhol, John F. Kennedy, Pablo Picasso and George Bernard Shaw.
Extra credit: Karsh's younger brother Malak was a well-known photographer of Canadian landscapes... Karsh's portrait of Helen Keller was unusual: a close-up of her hands, pressed together as if in prayer.

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