December 23 – Happy Birthday, Yousuf Karsh

Posted on December 23, 2017

Hmm...let's see:

Escape from genocide - the deliberate killing of an entire population.

Become a refugee to Canada - thank goodness some countries allow refugees to enter and stay.

Learn to take photos.

Set up business as a photographer in Ottawa (the capital of Canada).

Take an iconic photo of a world leader.

Become one of the greatest photographers of the 20th Century!

Yousuf Karsh was born in the Ottoman Empire (what is now Turkey) on this date in 1908. His parents were Armenian, and he thought of himself as Armenian, but that wasn't so good right then - Armenians were being exterminated by the Ottoman Empire! The family was able to escape to Syria, and Karsh's family sent him to Quebec, Canada, to live with his uncle.

His uncle happened to be a portrait photographer.

Karsh learned photography from his uncle and also from an apprenticeship in the U.S. (in Boston, to be specific). He settled in Ottawa and opened his own portrait studio at age 24.

Karsh was good enough to attract the attention of the Canadian Prime Minister. Through that connection, Karsh was able to arrange to photograph world leaders when they came to town. He used dramatic lighting...

...And by the time he was 33 years old, Karsh had captured this remarkable photograph of the United Kingdom's Winston Churchill:

According to The Economist, this is the most reproduced portrait in the history of photography!

Karsh's portrait was printed onto
5-pound notes!
All of a sudden, Karsh was world famous. His photo of Churchill was purchased by Life magazine and appeared on its cover. Karsh went on to appear on the cover of Life more than 20 times. 

Karsh spent most of his career taking photos of only famous people. But he wasn't a paparazzi, chasing the rich and famous and looking for sleazy shots. Instead, he made portraits - the famous folks loved his work and gladly posed for him. Here are a few:

Scientist Albert Einstein

Actress Audrey Hepburn
Writer Ernest Hemingway

Actress Elizabeth Taylor

President John F. Kennedy

Singer Marian Anderson

Civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr.

President Richard Nixon

Artist Georgia O'Keefe

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