Internationally-famed Canadian photojournalist Peter Bregg said he has “immense pride” in Justin Trudeau, who he’s been photographing since the prime minister-designate was just a child.
“I have watched (Justin) grow,” Bregg said, reflecting on his iconic images of the Trudeau family during the 16 years they lived at 24 Sussex Drive while his father, Pierre, served as prime minister.
After watching the boy he knew win last week’s federal election, Bregg reflected on “the fine young man” Trudeau had become.
“He decided to do this and he put his mind into it, his whole being into it, and he accomplished it,” Bregg said. “He’s got magic and charisma that has helped propel him.”
Bregg has had a storied career, working for The Canadian Press (CP) and Maclean’s Magazine, as well as winning the National Press Photographer Association Regional Photographer of the Year award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Journalism Foundation along the way.
Bregg is now Ryerson’s advanced photojournalism instructor, as well as a freelance photographer. He was just 19 years old and working for CP in 1967 when he was first assigned to cover the elder Trudeau.
Bregg’s first interaction with Justin occurred when he saw a young boy surrounded by Mounties walking on Parliament Hill. Upon learning it was the young Trudeau — just two years old — he snapped some pictures and sent them out on the wire, as well as a set of prints to Pierre.
“He’s a handsome guy isn’t he?” replied Pierre.
Over the years, Bregg formed a relationship with the family due to his discreet demeanour and skill in using their spontaneous behaviour to capture memorable photos.
He covered the former prime minister’s events and trips, including to Mexico and Greece with the Trudeau children tagging along. The family has had Bregg shoot Christmas cards and even Justin’s brother Alexandre’s wedding.
Some of the most famous images of Pierre came from Bregg’s camera: an over-the-top shrug given to reporters at a press conference; posing with John Lennon and Yoko Ono; looking suave in a fedora at the Grey Cup in 1970; and making silly faces on the election campaign plane in 1972.
Following Monday’s election, a photo taken by UPI news photographer Rod MacIvor of a Mountie saluting Pierre, with a young Justin slung under one arm, has been republished by media outlets across the world — a photo that won a National Newspaper Award in the year after it was taken.
Bregg was standing right beside MacIvor and took a shot a fraction of a moment before or after MacIvor. When he posted it on Instagram last week, he said it was always one of his favourites.
The relationship diffused when the family left office and returned to Montreal. Bregg reconnected with Justin briefly in 2002 while working for Maclean’s and shot him for its cover as well as his mother, Margaret, and wife, Sophie, in 2006 on a trip to Ethiopia for HELLO! magazine.
That same year, he accompanied Justin while he worked on a film about the First World War. In between takes, Justin suddenly pulled his necktie in the same manner his father had in a picture Bregg shot in 1968. As one photographer yelled for him to do it again, Justin pointed at Bregg and said, “Peter got it.”
When Bregg saw Justin posing for selfies with supporters on Parliament Hill, it echoed his memories of Pierre in the same spot surrounded by school girls wanting to touch him. That resonated with Bregg as Justin’s tendency to walk freely without an overwhelming security detail is something from a different era.
Bregg said Justin and his father’s similarities go beyond the gunslinger pose. They have a shared passion and flare for the spontaneous moment, but the two approach crowds differently. Pierre was tamer while Justin is more gregarious, taking after his mother.
“Justin just has the magic touch,” Bregg said.