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Celebrating the Negative: Yousuf Karsh


“When I am with a camera, I feel I am the most important person in the world,” said Yousuf Karsh to describe his encounter with Winston Churchill on December 30, 1941, just after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and Germany declared war on the United States.

Britain’s embattled Prime Minister had just finished speaking to Canada’s Parliament and was surprised to find Karsh in the Speaker’s Chamber, prepared to take his portrait. The photographer stepped up to remove a freshly lit cigar from Churchill’s lips. “It was an act of reverence, as I would shoo a fly off a person’s coat before I photographed him. By the time I was back at my camera, he was looking belligerently at me, as if he could have devoured me,” wrote Karsh, who took the picture anyhow. He adds, “I was very happy with myself when I left the building. I knew I had it.”

John Loengard, Celebrating the Negative is available to museums as a touring exhibition from Curatorial Assistance.

Celebrating the Negative
by John Loengard
Release in 1994
Published by Arcade Publishing

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