The widow of the celebrated photographer Yousef Karsh on Tuesday donated a series of original photographs to hang in the Château Laurier suite where the couple resided for 18 years.
Estrellita Karsh, along with Karsh curator Jerry Fielder, selected nine photographs, including portraits of figure skating champion Barbara Ann Scott, prima ballerina Karen Kain, artist Pablo Picasso and author Ernest Hemingway, to hang in Suite 358 of the Ottawa hotel, where the couple lived from 1973 to 1992.
"To everybody else the Château is a place probably where you come and go, where you say 'Good morning,' to the bellboy and you leave," Karsh told CBC News on Tuesday. "But we lived here and the Château family became our family. The moment Yousef and I entered Suite 358 we knew that it was our home and we made it so, and you know it is still our home."
The couple's ties to the hotel date back to 1932, when Karsh held his first public exhibition in the Château Laurier's Drawing Room. Between 1972 and 1992, Karsh also used Suite 660 as his studio. In 1997, the Karshes moved to Boston and the following year, the hotel named Suite 358 the Karsh Suite in his honour. Karsh died in 2002.
Karsh said she and Fielder tried to avoid turning the suite into a museum and selected the photographs carefully.
"We wanted the photographs not to stand out and shout, 'Look at me, look at me,' but to become an integral part of the setting, and yet his photographs are so powerful that they soothe and they heal and they become your friend," she said.
Karsh installation a welcome homecoming, widow says
Over the course of his 60-year-career, Karsh's dramatic black and white photographs of politicians, artists and cultural icons were internationally acclaimed.
'It's coming home for me and I know that for those who stay in the suite it will be coming home for them.' —Estrellita Karsh
"When you see his photographs you have an intimate feeling about the person and this is because Yousef brought out what was wonderful in the person," Karsh said.
"He collaborated with them and they were not afraid to drop their masks so that he could find the person underneath."
Karsh said the installation of the photographs marks a welcome return.
"It's coming home for me and I know that for those who stay in the suite it will be coming home for them," she said.