The World of Yousuf Karsh: A Private Essence
March 12 to October 16, 2022
See works by the world’s greatest portrait photographer, Yousuf Karsh, in a new exhibition that just opened in Halifax, Nova Scotia at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. The work spans the lifetime of the famous photographer’s portraits from his origins as an Armenian refugee to Canada in 1924 to works in the 1990s. We’re all familiar with the work of Karsh, whether we know it or not. His photo portraits of Hemmingway, Einstein, Churchill, Kennedy and many other of the most recognizable figures of the 20th century are the images that define them for us, even today.
Over 100 of his portraits are included in the exhibition. Each is accompanied by an observation Karsh made of his subject or a quote from the subject. Of the great playwright George Bernard Shaw, Karsh said, “Shaw came bursting into the room with the energy of a young man, though he was almost ninety years old. His manner, his penetrating old eyes, his flashing wit, and his bristling beard were all designed to awe me.”
Albert Einstein was a must for Karsh. He wrote, “not only because this greatest refugee of our century has been accounted by all the world as the [most] outstanding scientist since Newton, but because his face, in all its rough grandeur, invited and challenged the camera…. When I asked him what the world would be like were another atomic bomb to be dropped, he replied wearily, ‘Alas, we will no longer be able to hear the music of Mozart.'” Of course, Karsh himself was a refugee led to photography by the accident of his arrival in Canada through Pier 21 where this exhibition of his work now hangs.
I recommend a couple of hours with this exhibit, it’s so intriguing. While I was there, I had some fun taking photos of my own like the one here of Jacques Cousteau, his famous profile signified by that unmistakable nose, including a reflection of myself taking a photo of a photo. And this one of just the famous eyes of Nelson Mandela. And this one of Peter Lorre, just because I loved the composition, the story about Karsh’s encounter with him and of all the negative space allowing for a reflection of the gallery itself. This must-see exhibition is open now and runs until October 16.