Ted Grant, father of Canadian photojournalism, receives Order of Canada

"I just love doing what I’ve done for all these years. I react, I go, 'Oh my God, look at that,' and the camera goes click," says Grant, 86.

Grant, 86, responsible for thousands of images currently kept at the National Archives of Canada

The Vietnam War, the catastrophic disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, sprinter Ben Johnson crossing the finish line at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul.

During each of these historic events, award-winning Canadian photojournalist Ted Grant was there, behind his camera waiting to capture the moment.

Grant was appointed to the Order of Canada on Dec. 30 in recognition of his decades-long career, yet the Victoria resident humbly says that his iconic photographs come down to timing.

"I react, I go, 'Oh my God, look at that,' and the camera goes click," Grant, 86, told On the Coast guest host Laura Lynch.

Photos of Pierre Trudeau, dignitaries

That timing allowed Grant to take candid shots of notable people like Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Jackie Kennedy, and — his personal favourite — a shot of then prime minister Pierre Trudeau sliding down a bannister at the 1968 Liberal convention in Ottawa.

 "I just got lucky," he said.

Pierre Trudeau slides down the banister at the 1968 Liberal convention in Ottawa. Ted Grant said this is his favourite photograph because it is so well known. "I was lucky," he said, about getting the shot. (Ted Grant)

"Quite frankly, it's been 65 years of a love affair that you cannot imagine, It's as simple as that," said Grant, when asked how he captured all those stunning shots.

"Today you seem to have more and more people who are more inclined to be involved with the techy aspect and they want to know all the numbers and everything. Well the only thing that matters really is the content of the picture," he said.

"If you're standing there and Ben Johnson is running down the track at you like a rocket and you are now thinking, 'Oh did I set the camera right?' It's over, and he's already on his way home to Canada the next day."

Grant has a condition called amblyopia in his right eye. It's also known as lazy eye, so he uses his left eye when taking photographs.

"The right eye just goes along for a free ride," he said.

However, a physician friend of his has suggested that perhaps this is why Grant has an eye for taking the perfect shot.

"He said, 'You know why you get your pictures the way you do? It's because you see only with one eye really, and you don't have any depth perception,'" Grant said.

"He said, 'You're seeing everything that you're looking at as flat, like you're looking at a photograph."

'I love telling stories'

Grant, regarded by some as the father of Canadian photojournalism has long been passionate about sharing his knowledge with others, and taught an undergraduate photojournalism course at Carleton University at the height of his career.

He continues to teach seniors and help teenagers, because he said when he was a teenager he didn't have a camera.

He and his wife married when they were both 19, and she gave him his first camera for his 20th birthday.

"I still have that camera, and that was the beginning, and the whole thing just evolved from that," he said.

"The truth is, it still comes down to: I enjoy it, I love telling stories."

Grant was one of six British Columbians among the 69 appointments by Governor General David Johnston to the Order of Canada.

Victoria-raised director Atom Egoyan and B.C. authors Joseph Boyden and Rohinton Mistry were also appointed.


To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Award-winning Canadian photojournalist Ted Grant appointed to the Order of Canada

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