Yousuf Karsh & John Garo: The Search for a Master’s Legacy by Mehmed Ali
When President Calvin Coolidge was asked to choose between the artist John Singer Sargent or the photographer John Garo to make his official presidential portrait, Coolidge chose Garo. Although unknown today, in the early years of the twentieth century, Garo was a nationally acclaimed photographer, a leader in the thriving Boston photographic community. Cultured and charming, Garo also painted watercolors, wrote poetry and counted among his friends luminaries in the worlds of music and theater. It was to this humanistic atmosphere of Garo’s sky lit studio that the fledgling photographer, Yousuf Karsh, a survivor of the 1915 Armenian Massacres, was sent by his uncle George Nakash, to be Garo’s apprentice. Garo was a nurturing and encouraging mentor. His three years with Garo transformed young Karsh’s life and influenced his original desire to portray those personalities who made a positive impact on our world. Garo died in 1939, a victim of the Great Depression, ill health and changing photographic taste. Karsh, then still a struggling photographer in Canada, was devastated to discover Garo’s studio ransacked, and many of his portraits missing. Thus began a forty-year odyssey by Karsh to discover his mentor’s portraits, and preserve them for posterity. Drawing on meticulous research and on Karsh’s personal correspondence, Mehmed Ali brings to life this intensely human journey, and the little known story of Garo’s stellar role in the history of photography in New England.
Mehmed Ali’s “Yousuf Karsh & John Garo: The Search for a Master’s Legacy” (Benna), illustrated with 100 photographs, most of them by Garo or Karsh, offers an inside look at the early years of celebrity photography. (The Boston Globe)
This is also a story of a master and apprentice, a mentor and mentee, with Karsh investing himself in the restoration of Garo’s legacy as one of New England’s notable photographers.
Ali’s discovery of Garo while doing research on Armenian political activists in Lowell led him to Karsh’s widow, Estrellita, who encouraged Ali to pursue the story. Ali immersed himself in the subject, revealing the extraordinary accomplishments of both Garo and Karsh. The book is beautifully produced with high quality reproductions, mostly in black and white with a few color images.