Nick Bez, a portrait by Karsh of Ottawa

A portrait of Nick Bez, by Karsh of Canada. Permission of the Bez family.

A portrait of Nick Bez, by Karsh of Canada. Permission of the Bez family.

The Bez family very kindly let us go through the voluminous collection of materials they amassed about the career of Nick Bez, the millionaire fisherman turned airline executive. There were several copies of a striking photograph of Bez and there was a famous name on the corner, Karsh.

Yousuf Karsh was an internationally renowned portrait painter. He was born in 1908 in Turkey and moved to Canada in 1924. He worked with his uncle, who was a photographer. He called himself Karsh of Ottawa and he traveled the world shooting portraits of famous people, including Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ernest Hemmingway. He died in 1902 at the age of 93.

Did Karsh travel to Seattle to photograph Bez? In his office, perhaps? Note that the globe is positioned to show the North Pacific Ocean, where Bez made his money and put his stamp on Pacific Northwest history.

These two paragraphs from the Karsh obituary in The New York Times certainly sum up the portrait of Nick Bez.

Mr. Karsh was a master of the formally posed, carefully lighted studio portrait. Working with an 8-by-10 view camera and a battery of artificial lights (he was said to carry 350 pounds of equipment on his trips abroad) he aimed, in his own words, “to stir the emotions of the viewer” and to “lay bare the soul” of his sitter.

He characteristically achieved a heroic monumentality in which the sitter’s face, grave, thoughtful and impressive, emerged from a dark, featureless background with an almost superhuman grandeur. As the historian Peter Pollack put it in his “Picture History of Photography”, “Yousuf Karsh, in his powerful portraits, transforms the human face into legend.”


About finleyc

I'm a writer and a historian of science. I'm interested in the intersection of science and policy in the oceans, and especially around fishing.
This entry was posted in Carmel Finley, Environmental History, Fishing, History of Science, History of Technology, Nick Bez, Pacific Explorer, Pacific Fishing History Project and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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