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Yousuf Karsh: Industrial Images

October 2, 2010 - November 19, 2010

AWE Gallery

Yousuf Karsh, the iconic Canadian photographer known for his portraits of prime ministers, presidents, movie stars, authors, philosophers, scientists, artists, popes and other luminaries of the 20th century, was also a commercial and industrial photographer.

In an effort to endorse pride in domestic production, Karsh was commissioned by Ford of Canada in the 1950s to take pictures of the Windsor assembly line, foundry and trade school. Karsh spent two weeks producing photographs that were eventually placed in the company’s annual report and travelled across the country as an exhibition. “It is the men who tell the company’s story best,” said Karsh. “They give the machines life and movement. It is really their skill that gives [a car] strength and beauty.” Karsh’s unique approach to his industrial portraits — concentrating on his subjects instead of the machinery — gave his sitters a heroic stature, transforming ordinary automotive workers into stars. Gow Crapper, a worker photographed putting trim cord on a rear window, resembled a young James Dean, and the photo of Emric (Jimmy) Saska, a set-up man, was one of the most popular images reproduced in magazines at the time. Karsh’s portraits captured the industrial worker’s determination and pride, glamourizing the otherwise harsh industrial environment.

The Yousuf Karsh: Industrial Images exhibition is a culmination of Karsh’s industrial and commercial work with Ford of Canada. The exhibition explores the tone of Karsh’s industrial and commercial portraits in relation to the work and life philosophies prevalent in post-WWII North America. It also explores consumerism, marketing, and the political atmosphere in Canada during the 1950s through his portraits.

The original project was curated by Cassandra Getty and organized and circulated by the AGW with the support of the Ford Motor Company of Canada, the Portrait Gallery of Canada, a program of the Library and Archives Canada, the Museums Assistance Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage, CAW-TCA Canada, and Estrellita Karsh.

This in-house exhibition was curated by AGW Curator and Collections Manager, Mandy Salter


Gow Capper, 1951

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