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Matinee: 'Behind the Lens with Ted Grant' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

24 January 2015

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the sixty-nineth in our series of Saturday matinees today: Behind the Lens with Ted Grant.

This nearly five-minute Nick Didlick production shot on a Nikon D4s is long enough to make you feel like you've known Canadian photographer Ted Grant for years. And with 280,000 images in the National Archives of Canada and another 100,000 in the National Gallery of Canada's Museum of Contemporary Photography, that's a lot to know.

The introduction shows him hunched over in his chair, an old man certainly. But the drum beat sound track is your clue there's more going on here than meets the eye. In a flash, he looks up, sees you and frames you in his Leica. A moment later, you hear the shutter.

He's not called the father of Canadian photojournalism for nothing.

As the film begins, we see him walk onto the plain set from the chest down and take a seat. A medium shot puts him center frame as he begins, "I'm Ted Grant. I've been a photographer since May 27, 1950."

Yes, he knows the exact date.

It happens to have been his first birthday after he married. His wife had given him an Argus A2 because he had always been interested in photography. Which he pulls from his pocket. "That was the beginning."

A few months later he had a sports photo published and his career was up and running.

You're not two minutes in before he tells a moving story about shooting an event with the Prime Minister of Canada as a rookie. His assistant had warned the PM that Grant was intimidated by him. And Grant was floored when the PM asked him for stage directions. "What would you like me to do?"

After the shot, the PM approached him and said, "Don't be afraid of us. We're people just like you." Grant tears up remembering the story.

Photography, he notes, has always been an emotional thing. He's photographed about 100 babies (including his grandchildren), he recalls, and cried over every one.

You might be better off in some other profession, he warns, but you'll regret not becoming a photographer.

You may also regret this portrait is so short. But there's a longer feature from Senior Living covering the same ground and a more technical interview at the Leica Camera Blog.

And how would he like to be remembered? As "a helluva nice guy," he suggests.


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