Winston Churchill Without His Cigar

As a young boy of 17 , Yousuf Karsh, came to canada from Armenia and began a life that no one would could have possible imagined.  He came from a country and a people that had been persecuted beyond belief so this was a change that he along with many Armenians drastically needed when they came to both Canada and the U.S.  Yousuf’s uncle sponsored the Immigration of the boy and “photographer’s assistant” was written on his papers.   He loved his new country, made new friends and after a while went to study with a great photographer in Boston.

John H. Garo was a friend of Yousuf’s uncle and in Garo’s studio the young man, over the next 3 years, learned about art, the different complicated processes of photography, people skills and even how to be a bartender when clients came over.  Garo would only take photos with natural light and demanded that of all of his assistants.  The old photographer also insisted that young Yousuf capture people as they revealed very human qualities.

Yousuf returned to Canada and with a will and determination for fame and fortune, went to Ottawa and became a photographer and friend of, then Canadian Prime Minister,  William Lyon Mackenzie King.  During this time in Ottawa Yousuf developed a passion for theatre and discovered that artificial light would become a valuable tool in his photographic sessions.  Now this young photographer was the brightest and the best in Canada and when Churchill came to Ottawa in Dec. 30, 1941 to deliver his famous “Chicken Speech”, Yousuf had his equipment set up in King’s office for a brief photography session with the famous British statesman.

This was something that Churchill hadn’t expected but decided that 10 minutes or so out of his day wouldn’t be a problem.  As Churchill sat against a wood paneled wall he had his signature cigar in his hand and the young photographer asked him to set it down out of the lens’ view.  Churchill responded, “No way” but Yousuf somehow politely wrangled it out of the Old man’s hand, set it in an ashtray of King’s desk and snapped one of the most famous pictures of Churchill ever taken.

Churchill doesn’t look very happy in the shot but this was during world war 2 when he needed help from both Canada and the U.S. and came over to North America to rally some support.  In the photo you can see that Churchill had a lot on his mind or was he just angry that his cigar had been taken away from him?

A perfectly good cigar burns away in an ashtray!!

A perfectly good cigar burns away in an ashtray!!