‘Ottawa’ Capital Facts: The Photograph that Launched Yousuf Karsh’s Career
In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, the Citizen is rolling out one fact each day for 150 days until July 1, highlighting the odd, the fascinating and the important bits of Ottawa history you might not know about.
Perhaps the most famous photograph ever taken of Winston Churchill was shot in the capital, and launched the career of the world-famous Yousuf Karsh of Ottawa. It was taken on Dec. 30, 1941, after the British prime minister gave a defiant speech about the threat of a German invasion of England to Canadian parliamentarians during a visit to Ottawa.
Karsh, a young Armenian immigrant who moved to Ottawa to open a photography studio in 1932, was tapped to photograph Churchill. With no shortage of chutzpah, Karsh plucked the cigar from Churchill’s mouth, leaving the British prime minister looking “so belligerent he could have devoured me.”
The portrait, which appeared on the cover of Life Magazine, made Karsh famous. He went on to photograph the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King.
— Megan Gillis