Karsh Signature

Yousuf Karsh, master photographer of the 20th century

Yousuf Karsh: Industrial Images

Art Gallery of Windsor, Ontario, Canada (currently traveling), 2004

Art Gallery of Windsor, Ontario, June 25 to Nov 14, 2004
Confederation Art Centre, Charlottetown, PEI, June 10 - Nov 25, 2007
Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, Ontario, Jan 16 to Mar 30, 2008
Robert McLaughlin Art Gallery, Oshawa, May 8 to June 29, 2008
CAW Conference, Sheraton, Toronto, June 7 to 9, 2008 (excerpts)
The McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinberg, Jan 31 to June 28, 2009
Art Gallery of Sudbury, Ontario, Sept17 to Nov 1st 2009
Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, Brandon, June 30 to Aug 14 2010
(more venues TBA)

'The industrial projects of Yousuf Karsh represent a little-studied yet surprisingly substantial aspect of his career. The exhibition features images of men who were not the celebrities normally associated with Karsh, but workers at Atlas Steels in Welland, Ontario, the Ford Motor Company in Windsor, Ontario, Sharon Steel in Sharon, Pennsylvania, and a variety of other commercial images. These portraits are as dramatic as Karsh’s better-known images of statesmen and other luminaries, emphasizing the idea of the heroic worker. The tone of the portraits, printed using techniques to achieve the most resonant images possible, reflects larger philosophies about work and life in post- WWII North America.

Industrial photographs before Karsh could document buildings and machinery, or champion the service or product offered to the consumer. They did not necessarily include the image of the worker. Photographs of workers were often incidental, subordinate within the image to the story of production. Yousuf Karsh chose a different approach, diverting focus from shining steel and precisely ordered assembly lines to impart a sense of glamourized humanity to work. In an age when photography was often regarded as an objective record of reality, business executives saw in Karsh’s photography an effective means to endorse the idea of a strong workforce – one that might increase the consumer’s desire for their products.

The exhibition recognizes Karsh’s industrial images as social documents commenting upon the state of labour, consumerism and marketing, and the political atmosphere in Canada during the 1950s. A catalogue accompanies the show, including an essay by Jerry Fielder, Karsh’s longtime assistant, and updated material on some of the surviving portrait sitters and their families.'

Cassandra Getty
Curator, Historical Art and the Collections
Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario