Biography of Jousef Karsh

Essay by rt3378High School, 10th gradeA+, October 2007

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Jousuf Karsh, a portrait photographer, was born on December 23, 1908, in Mardin, Turkey. He grew up during the Armenian Genocide. Some of his relatives died during his childhood. In 1924, his parents sent him to live with his uncle, George Nakash, a photographer himself. Karsh went to school in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada. In 1928, his uncle sent him to work with a photographer named John Garo in Boston after he thought Karsh would become a good photographer.

After four years, Karsh decided to establish himself as a portrait photographer, so he made a studio in Ottawa, Ontario. Many celebrities were going to his studio, but his big break came on December 30, 1941, after he photographed Winston Churchill. That photograph is the most reproduced photograph in the history of photography. In 1967, he was made an officer of the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honor, and later promoted to Companion, the highest rank, in 1990.

Of the 100 most notable people of the century, in the International Who’s Who, Karsh had photographed 51 and was the only representative of Canada. Sadly, on July 13, 2002, he passed away in Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. Today, his body lies in Notre Dame Cemetary in Ottawa.

Throughout most of his career he used the 8×10 bellows Calumet (1997.0319) camera, made circa 1940 in Chicago.1 Karsh was so famous that journalist George Perry wrote in the British paper The Sunday Times that “when the famous start thinking of immortality, they call for Karsh of Ottawa.” Karsh had a gift for capturing the essence of his subject in the instant of his portrait. As Karsh wrote of his own work in Karsh Portfolio in 1967, "Within every man and woman a secret is hidden, and as a photographer it is my...