Facts about Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf Karsh died at 93 years old
Birthplace: Mardin, Ottoman Empire (now Turkey)
Best known as: Photographer of the famous grumpy Churchill portrait


Yousuf Karsh Biography

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 8×10 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.