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Famed photographer visits Loyalist College

Photojournalist Rod MacIvor snaps the famous photo of Pierra Trudeau and his son Justin. [1]

The famous 1973 photo of prime minister Pierre Trudeau carrying his eldest son, Justin, into the House of Commons. Photo by Rod MacIvor.

By Isaiah Mawhinney [2]

BELLEVILLE – Rod MacIvor [3], a photojournalist known for his pictures of the Trudeau family [4], spoke to students at Loyalist College on Tuesday.

During his 42-year career with the Ottawa Citizen [5], McIvor photographed the Trudeaus through the 1970s and ’80s. MacIvor retired in 2007 at the age of 61. He has been awarded numerous honours, such as the Canadian Press News Photo of the Year [6], for his work with the Trudeau family.

When he arrived at Alumni Hall Tuesday the room was filled with photojournalists and other intrigued students. The lights dimmed, the projection screen lowered and he began his two-hour presentation with a slideshow of his pictures.

He offered insights into his relationship with the family while Pierre Trudeau [7] was prime minister, including his friendship with Margaret Trudeau [8] and her children, whom he was hired to teach photography. At one point, he said, Margaret Trudeau, who was interested in learning photography, convinced him to let her shadow him in disguise while he did his job.

The famous 1973 photo of Pierre Trudeau holding his oldest son, Justin [9], under his arm has been critically acclaimed. In the picture a police officer is seen saluting to the Trudeaus as they walk by. The son of that police officer had a chance to meet Justin Trudeau [10], then running for leader of the Liberal party, decades later at Loyalist College after the fathers of both men had passed away.

Other highlights of the talk included a question-and-answer period with the audience. Many people wanted his advice for aspiring journalists.

“Be adaptable – learn what you can while you’re at school. But also pay attention to what other people are doing. Read newspapers, (read) magazines, even watch TV and see what the news events of the day are,” he said.

For those who struggle with photography, he said, it’s still possible to learn: “Maybe you can’t make a good photograph, but you can learn what is a good photograph, how to appreciate a good photograph and make sure it’s used properly. The end.”

MacIvor started out doing jobs with small news organizations, but eventually made his way up to the big leagues. He’s photographed stars like Red Skelton [11], Bob Hope [12], Perry Como [13], Andy Williams [14] and Liberace [15].

His career as a photographer began when he was working in an office job at the Central Canada Exhibition [16] in Ottawa. He decided to buy a camera, he said, “because I wanted to photograph the grandstand stars coming in.”

He bought a $39 Yaschica [17] and taught himself how to shoot. Then he contacted the man hired to photograph the fair, who ended up giving him a summer job.

After working through small businesses and making a name for himself, he earned a position at the Citizen as assistant director of photography.

MacIvor ended his talk by saying that whether it’s the element of luck or being in the right place at the right time, success comes through working hard to get where you are.