YOUSUF KARSH Biography - Craftmen, artisans and people from other Occupations


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Name: Yousuf Karsh                                                                   
Born: 23 December 1908 Mardin, the Ottoman Empire                                   
Died: 13 July 2002 Boston, USA                                                       
Yousuf Karsh (December 23, 1908 - July 13, 2002) was                                 
a Canadian photographer of Armenian heritage, and one of the most famous and         
accomplished portrait photographers of all time.                                     
Yousuf (his given Armenian name was Hovsep) Karsh was born in Mardin, a city in     
the eastern Ottoman Empire (currently in Turkey). He grew up during the Armenian     
Genocide where he wrote, "I saw relatives massacred; my sister died of               
starvation as we were driven from village to village." At the age of 14, he         
fled with his family to Syria to escape persecution. Two years later, his           
parents sent Yousuf to live with his uncle George Nakash, a photographer in         
Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada. Karsh briefly attended school there and assisted in     
his uncle's studio. Nakash saw great potential in his nephew and in 1928             
arranged for Karsh to apprentice with portrait photographer John Garo in Boston,     
United States. His brother, Malak Karsh, was also a photographer famous for the     
image of logs floating down the river on the Canadian one dollar bill.               
Karsh returned to Canada four years later, eager to make his mark. He               
established a studio on Sparks Street in Ottawa, Ontario, close to Canada’s seat   
of government. Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King discovered Karsh and           
arranged introductions with visiting dignitaries for portrait sittings. Karsh's     
work attracted the attention of varied celebrities, but his place in history was     
sealed on 30 December, 1941 when he photographed Winston Churchill after             
Churchill gave a speech to Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa.                     
The image of Churchill brought Karsh international prominence, and is claimed to     
be the most reproduced photographic portrait in history. In 1967, he was made an     
Officer of the Order of Canada and in 1990 was promoted to Companion.               
Of the 100 most notable people of the century, named by the International Who's     
Who [2000], Karsh had photographed 51. Karsh was also the only Canadian to make     
the list.                                                                           
In the late 90s he moved to Boston and on July 13, 2002 (He was 93 years old)       
Karsh died at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital after complications             
following surgery. He was interred in Notre Dame Cemetery in Ottawa.