‘His whole life was pictures’ … and chances are, Barney Charach captured a part of your life on film, too

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You probably know Barney Charach if you graduated from high school or university in Winnipeg in the past 60 years.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/11/2013 (3292 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

You probably know Barney Charach if you graduated from high school or university in Winnipeg in the past 60 years.

Or if you were an entertainer who frequented nightclubs, you likely posed for him, and chances are pretty good you know him if you got married here since 1947.

At least, you’d know the face behind the camera pointing right at your grinning mug.

Ken Gigliotti / Free Press archives ‘Barney Charach and his camera were fixtures across decades of University of Manitoba convocations. He presided over these sessions with humour, flair, an eagle eye and an indomitable energy and spirit, even as he moved into an age when most of his peers were enjoying retirement’ — University of Manitoba marketing and communications director John Danakas

Charach, who died Saturday at age 91 after a long illness, was quite possibly the most familiar photographer Manitoba has ever produced.

“He started in 1947. His whole life was pictures,” his widow Myrna Charach said Sunday. “He loved telling everyone that everyone in his family was a barber, and he didn’t want to be a barber.”

Charach learned to work a camera when the Royal Canadian Air Force put him in bombers to record their missions over Germany, she recalled, and when he got back to Winnipeg, Barney started his own business.

“He loved it — he never did anything else,” she said.

So how did he get those contracts to photograph graduations for decades?

He hustled, said Myrna. Barney worked relentlessly to go to schools, nightclubs and restaurants looking for photo jobs, lining up customers who stayed with him for all those years.

“He went to the universities, to the fraternity parties… just going after them, going to the nightclubs. He went to Club Morocco.”

Most important family pictures were pretty much all formally posed in studios back then, she said — that is, unless the photographer was Barney Charach, who took his equipment out of the studio and photographed people out in the real world.

Myrna was the director of a business college back in the day. “I hired him to take the pictures at our graduation, and I went home with him,” she said with a laugh.

Myrna said she has never taken a photograph, but did all the other work at the studio, which she’s continued to operate even after Barney could no longer handle the shoots himself.

“He stopped eight years ago — he shot until he fell, eight years ago,” Myrna said.

JEFF DE BOOY / FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Dushant Persaud (left) surprises Barney Charach with his own diploma during a St. John’s High School ceremony in 2004.

Barney Charach went to William Whyte School, but he left St. John’s High School without graduating. About 15 years ago, Myrna said, Barney was photographing the St. John’s High School convocation, unaware that principal Dushant Persaud had a big surprise in store.

“At the end of the graduation, they told him to put down the camera — they put a cap and gown on him” and awarded Charach his diploma, Myrna said.

U of M president David Barnard and the entire university community sent Charach their condolences, university marketing and communications director John Danakas said Sunday.

“Barney Charach and his camera were fixtures across decades of University of Manitoba convocations. He presided over these sessions with humour, flair, an eagle eye and an indomitable energy and spirit, even as he moved into an age when most of his peers were enjoying retirement,” Danakas said. “He was a Winnipeg institution whose name is stamped not only on the back of countless photo portraits of our proudest moments but also in our memories and hearts.”

Barney Charach leaves four children, seven grandchildren and one great-granddaughter, none of them yet a photographer.

The family will hold a private ceremony this morning, and invites anyone wishing to remember Barney Charach to Shaarey Zedek synagogue at 4 p.m.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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