Perfect Portraiture: The Photographs of Yousuf Karsh

brigitte bardot yousuf karsh

Ottawa may not be regarded as much of an artistic incubator, but that was the unlikely location of Yousuf Karsh’s studio. For those who don’t know the name, Karsh was one of the 20th Century’s most respected and admired portrait photographers, responsible for iconic images of Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot (above), Humphrey Bogart (below), Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Walt Disney, Christian Dior, Ernest Hemingway, Muhammad Ali, Marian Anderson, Albert Einstein, Fidel Castro, Andy Warhol, and Nelson Mandela among many others.

humphrey bogart yousuf karsh

So how did a survivor of the Armenian genocide from Ottawa get so many A-list subjects? Karsh was a well-regarded photographer of Canadian politicians when he got the opportunity to photograph Winston Churchill in December, 1941, just after one of the British Prime Minister’s most famous speeches. That indelible photograph—on the cover of LIFE magazine–put Karsh instantly on to the world stage. Of the 100 most notable people of the 20th century (according to the International Who’s Who), Karsh had lensed 51. He himself also made the list—the only Canadian to do so.

Throughout his career (Karsh’s studio was open from 1932 to 1992, an incredible 60 years!), the photographer maintained a special portfolio of treasured prints, which went to the Art Institute of Chicago after his death in 2002. Regarding Heroes, a traveling exhibition, at USC until November 23, draws from that collection, with some additiional prints selected by catalogue author and curator David Travis.

While at the Fisher Museum, you may also enjoy their Armand Hammer Collection, the Jenny Holtzer: Blacklist installation and their other collections dating from the 16th century to present.

USC Fisher Museum of Art is located at 823 Exposition Boulevard, 213.740.4561