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A Look at the Most Iconic Portraits Captured by Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf Karsh is widely viewed as one of the best photographers of all time. Born in modern-day Turkey in 1908, the Armenian-Canadian is noted for his amazing work in portrait photography, producing some of the most iconic works of the 20th century.

His early life was filled with tragedy, with Yousuf living through extreme poverty and famine that took the life of his sister. The period was also rife with political unrest, leading to horrific atrocities and mass deportation of the Armenian minorities in the region.

Albert Einstein

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf wrote of the experience “I saw relatives massacred; my sister died of starvation as we were driven from village to village.”

After fleeing to Syria at age 14, Yousuf was sent to live with his Uncle George Nakash in Quebec, Canada, briefly attending school. He helped with his uncle’s photography business, assisting in his studio as he quietly learned the craft.

Audrey Hepburn

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Impressed with his potential, his uncle organized for an apprenticeship with John Garo, a renowned portrait photographer in Boston, Massachusetts. After living in the USA for four years, Yousaf returned to Canada and began working in the studio of fellow photographer John Powls in 1931.

After Powls’ retirement, Yousaf took over the studio in Ottawa, eventually having his first solo exhibition in 1936. The event proved a success, with Yousaf eventually relocating his studio to the Drawing Room of the Château Laurier hotel in 1972, where it remained until his retirement in 1992.

Yousaf Karsh would go on to photograph some of the greatest minds of the 20th century, from Hitchcock to Einstein, all of which carried his trademark portrait style. Take a look at some his incredible work from over the years:

Ernest Hemingway

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Elizabeth Taylor

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Alfred Hitchcock

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Grace Kelly

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Pablo Picasso

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Jacqueline Kennedy

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Georgia O’Keeffe

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Muhammad Ali

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Fidel Castro

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Helen Keller, with Polly Thompson

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Frank Lloyd Wright

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Andy Warhol

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Martin Luther King

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Mother Teresa

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Winston Churchill

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Albert Schweitzer

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Jacques Cousteau

greatest portraits by Yousuf Karsh