A Tribute to Ted Grant – Inspiration from the Father of Canadian Photojournalism

Apr 30, 2020  By Helen Todd

“Real photographers shoot black and white, eat sushi, and drink single malt Scotch – not necessarily in that order, but it works very well.” – Ted Grant

Helen Todd

One person I was and will always be enormously inspired by that we’ve lost is Ted Grant, the “Father of Canadian Photojournalism.”
He earned the title as one of Canada’s most accomplished and prolific photojournalists with 280,000 images in the National Archives of Canada and another 100,000 images in the National Gallery of Canada’s Museum of Contemporary Photography. These images, which comprise the largest collection by an individual photographer in the history of Canada, were honored by the University of Victoria with an Honorary Doctorate of Laws Degree in recognition of his remarkable and outstanding career.
Quietly clicking with “the eye of an artist, the concentration of a surgeon and the reflexes of a cat,” Ted created iconic images for well over half a century, including his award-winning images of Pierre Trudeau sliding down the banister and the photograph of Ben Johnson becoming the fastest man on earth.
Grant published eight books, three of them dedicated to the work of medical professionals. In 2003 “Doctors’ Work: The Legacy of Sir William Osler” was republished, followed in 2004 by “Women in Medicine: A Celebration of Their Work,” co-authored with Sandy Carter. Bravo TV produced a documentary film about this outstanding photographer’s life recording the events and history of Canadian’s and people of the world.
I first met Ted back in 2011 over email and by phone for an interview conducted by Jason Schneider for Leica Camera, Dr. Ted Grant: A Canadian National Treasure, and later met him in person for a video interview for the Leica Society. Ted was not only truly the friendliest and warmest person I have ever met, he lived life to the absolute fullest. He went skydiving after his 65th birthday and took a selfie while upside down in a Mustang P-51 fighter plane to celebrate his 76th birthday! He invited me to his 100th birthday scheduled for May 27, 2029 where he wanted to throw the biggest party, with his Leica M8 of course, and then pull an Irish goodbye.
I found this in one of my emails from a few years ago where he was sharing his love of Leica cameras:

I have no doubt my professional photo life of 65 years shooting assignments about the world for so many clients was made possible due to my use of Leica gear. No not in all honesty for that complete time. But I would say it would be 80% of the years to date. And in my re-tired state of the moment I’m using an M8 with a Noctilux f1.0 along with a couple of other lenses. I suppose to my last gasp! J On my 100th birthday day May 27, 2029.

Ted didn’t make it to 100, but his spirit will forever live on in his photography and he’ll always be in our hearts. 
See Ted’s poignant photography on the National Gallery of Canada’s website, read the interview on Leica Camera’s blog: Dr. Ted Grant: A Canadian National Treasure, and watch the two interviews on the Leica Society’s YouTube channel: Ted Grant – 5 Tips on How To Improve Your Photography and Ted Grant – A Living Legacy


Thank you for this excellent tribute, Helen – I’m glad to learn more about him. A sad day indeed. He was a gem of a man.

I had the privilege of meeting him in person a few years ago. He hosted me at his house. We photographed each other eating sushi, drank scotch, and he mesmerized me with fascinating stories of his life as a photographer. It remains of the most important memories of my life.

A great photographer. He is missed.

Beautiful and well-written tribute to Ted Grant.

He was a perfectionist and he liked those Chipmunks. I recall getting a private showing, and called his chipmunk icebreaker photo a Racing Squirrel – due to its stripes. He lit right up with a great big smile and said I’m going to use that!

As a student I worked in Midland at the Lecia plant, describing to him some of the new M4 lenses we were working on (Herr Mandler’s F1.0 Aspheric Noctilux for example). Impossibly expensive, exquisitely engineered, brightest lens ever – and he just stared at me with that gimlet eye: it’s worth every penny he told me.

Wonderful tribute to Ted. But no mention of the thousands and thousands of Ted photographs in Library and Archives Canada. Ted was a great photographer and great friend of all of us at the Archives from the 1970s on – Andy Birrell, Lilly Koltun, Andrew Rodger, Joan Schwartz, and others.Ted’s photograph of Ben Johnson featured prominently in the 1992 book Treasures of the National Archives of Canada.

See: https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/CollectionSearch/Pages/record.aspx?app=fonandcol&IdNumber=18692&new=-8585935338493809468

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