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Ottawa: Karsh to have global anniversary exhibition

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  • Ottawa: Karsh to have global anniversary exhibition

    Ottawa Citizen, Canada
    Nov 28 2008

    Karsh to have global anniversary exhibition

    Portrait Gallery, science and tech museum plan centenary celebrations

    Laura Payton, The Ottawa Citizen
    Published: Friday, November 28, 2008

    Famed Ottawa photographer Yousuf Karsh's work will be exhibited in
    Ottawa and around the world this year, in a celebration of the 100th
    anniversary of his birth, the Portrait Gallery of Canada and the
    Canada Museum of Science and Technology announced yesterday.

    The gallery and the museum have organized Festival Karsh, with a
    website featuring his work going live on Dec. 23, the centenary of
    Karsh's birth. The events will also include an exhibit at the Museum
    of Science and Technology, an online group to share portraits and
    stories, and the Karsh Trail, a self-guided tour around Ottawa
    buildings where Karsh worked and where his work will be displayed.

    "Yousuf Karsh was about unlimited and intense involvement with people,
    both those before his lens and those looking at his photographs," said
    Lilly Koltun, the portrait gallery's director general, who posed for
    Karsh in 1987 and recalled how he requested she wear a specific
    outfit. "It was the first time I realized just how sensitive (he was)
    to his environment, and particularly to style."

    The exhibition, called Karsh the Storyteller, will feature some of his
    original prints and artifacts, including darkroom equipment and the
    cameras he used from 1958 until his retirement in the late '90s. It
    will also include a studio experience in which visitors can become
    portrait photographers and portrait subjects. It will run from June 12
    to Oct. 12 next year, and will be available for travel in Canada and
    abroad until 2012.

    Some of the portraits and stories featured in Karsh the Storyteller
    will be gathered through the festival's website,, and
    an online photosharing group called My Karsh on the website Flickr.

    Portraits allow people to search for meaning and understanding, says
    Jack Horwitz, whose father and uncle each sat for Karsh portraits.

    "It's a world that is locked in memory, at which we unlock that memory
    and there is mystery behind it," Horwitz said. "When we look at the
    portraits that this man took, it's akin to entering into those lives."

    Alia Hogben sat for Karsh when her family arrived in Ottawa for her
    father's posting as Indian high commissioner. Karsh had asked her
    father if she would model for a portrait, but her father, she says,
    being a protective Indian father, turned him down. After Karsh finally
    took the portrait, he used it in a 1958 Maclean's magazine feature on
    the most beautiful women in Canada.

    "When I was 17 and the photographs came out, people kept saying, 'Oh
    he only liked you because he's Armenian and he likes dark women,'"
    Hogben joked.