Karsh: Celebrating Humanity

For viewers around the world, Yousuf Karsh defined the photographic portrait in the twentieth century. Specializing in the creation of iconic images of the world’s leading figures—statesmen, writers, actors, artists, musicians, and scientists—Karsh made images that resonated deeply with his audience.

Karsh’s rise to international success began in 1941 with a portrait of Winston Churchill, and he became the world’s most sought-after portrayer of famous and powerful people. Standing behind his large-format camera, he presented these individuals formally, in images with sharp-focused details and faces lit dramatically by artificial light. 

Karsh wrote of his fascination with the “inward power” of his sitters. He said that it was his goal to “photograph the great in spirit, whether they be famous or humble.”  This exhibition features a rare opportunity to view the lesser-known aspects of the photographer’s career, from his early photographic forays, to personal images, and in “on assignment” work that reveals the humanity with which he approached all people. 

Watch an excerpt from WCVB-TV (Boston) Chronicle which profiled Yousuf Karsh: