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Featured Photographer: Yousuf Karsh

Welcome to our first featured photographer post!

If you’re a photographer living in Ottawa, you can’t get very far without hearing about Yousuf Karsh! Born in Armenia and arriving through Halifax in 1928, Karsh eventually moved to Ottawa and opened a studio in 1931. Karsh became very involved with the Ottawa Little Theatre, taking photos of their productions. Here is where he met many people (including his first wife) who opened doors for him, eventually meeting Prime Minister Mackenzie King whose connection made it possible for him to photograph Winston Churchill. And the rest as they say, is history. Check out the official website of  Yousuf Karsh for details of his life and his work.

Photo of Winston Churchill by Yousuf Karsh

Photo of Winston Churchill by Yousuf Karsh

Karsh’s most iconic photo was his portrait of Winston Churchill taken in Ottawa in 1941. Read more about the great story behind the photo of Winston Churchill. (although they spelled Yousuf as Yousef in this article however I’ve heard the story many times over the years and the story is the same!).

Yousuf Karsh retired to Boston. Take a look at the exhibit at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

The Ottawa Citizen did a feature called The Karsh Generation. It discusses his influence in photography in Ottawa. Really neat and worth a look.

The City of Ottawa established the Karsh Award in 2003 to honour the late photographers, Yousuf and Malak Karsh. The award celebrates an enduring legacy of excellence in fine-art photography in Ottawa. A $7,500 prize is presented every two years to an Ottawa artist who has demonstrated a strong commitment to artistic excellence in the discipline. Find out more about the 2014 recipient of the Karsh Award.

Ottawa river below Parliament Hill - Malak Karsh

Malak Karsh’s 1963 photo of logs floating on the Ottawa river below Parliament Hill appeared on the Canadian one-dollar bill

Did you know that Yousuf Karsh had a brother named Malak who was also a photographer? He liked to be called by his first name so as not to be confused with his famous brother. Malak Karsh was a landscape photographer and he celebrated Ottawa with many shots of Parliament Hill and the tulips. You have all seen his most famous photo of all…on the back of the old $1 bill.

You can find books about Karsh at the Ottawa Public Library, all for free! Reserve a copy online and have it sent to your closest branch.