Eijo Toyonaga, Year of the Child Exhibition
As a photography student in Japan, Eijo Toyonaga had a big dream of coming to Canada to meet Yousuf Karsh. He left Japan at a young age and travelled extensively for a number of years, this dream still in his mind. In 1968, Toyonaga arrived in Canada, travelling across the country and pursuing further photography studies.
In 1972, he moved to Ottawa and in the same year, coordinated his first visit with Yousuf Karsh, who by then was an Order of Canada recipient, had published Karsh Portfolio, and had marked international prominence. Toyonaga’s dream had come true, though this meeting proved to only be the beginning of a supportive partnership. Toyonaga and Karsh met several times over the years until Toyonaga landed his first official exhibition for the Year of the Child, entitled: Photo Diary: 2 enfants à la recherche du bonheur.
Karsh had given Toyonaga his word that he would be there for the official opening of the exhibition however, on that very day, his secretary informed Toyonaga that he was travelling in Europe. Toyonaga was disappointed but understanding of the situation. At 5pm on the day of the opening, to his surprise, Toyonaga received a phone call from Karsh himself, who was at the airport, confirming that he would be keeping his promise. At 7pm on January 3, 1979, Yousuf Karsh arrived at the Ottawa City Hall to officially launch Toyonaga’s exhibition, only to resume his travels the very next day.
“Eijo Toyonaga, for whom I hope photography is a source of constant challenge and pleasure and always with the best wishes of Yousuf Karsh” – inscribed by Yousuf Karsh in 1976.
*Note to the editor: Although not a traditional « Karshed » example as per the call from the Portrait Gallery of Canada, I wanted to share my father’s story regarding the role model and mentor Yousuf Karsh was. Although my father was not the subject of a Karsh photograph, his own photographs and career were influenced and shaped by him, due to Karsh’s generosity, humility and willingness to share his experience.