For nearly 40 years, Boris Spremo was one of Canada’s best-known photojournalists.
He witnessed and captured some of the biggest stories of his time — the construction of the CN Tower, the Vietnam War, Beatlemania and Terry Fox’s run across Canada. And he photographed some of the iconic personalities of the late 20th century — Pierre Trudeau, Muhammad Ali and Fidel Castro.
Spremo came to Canada in 1957 and began his career with the Globe and Mail in 1962. He joined the Toronto Star in 1966, where he remained until his retirement in 2000. Throughout his career and after, he received 285 national and international photojournalism awards, and in 2017 was a recipient of the Order of Canada.
An annual award that commemorates his life and work was awarded in the fall to fourth-year journalism student Josh Cameron for his photo titled “Drummer.”
Following his death in 2017, the Spremo family created the Boris Spremo Photojournalism Award. It’s given each year to assist a deserving undergraduate student in the photojournalism course in the School of Journalism at Ryerson University.
Cameron says he was well aware of the vastness and significance of Spremo’s impact before applying for the award. He had found a copy of Spremo’s first book in a used bookstore and says he was amazed by how photographs in it defined an era in Toronto.
So winning an award dedicated to Spremo’s legacy was a large compliment for Cameron.
“It’s essentially one of the top honours for a journalist photographer in Toronto, being associated with Spremo in any way. I admire his classic expository images that weren’t always exceptionally beautiful, but were technically and esthetically interesting. So the images I submitted for the award were in that vein.”
Spremo’s family decided to publish his memoir in a book aptly named Boris Spremo, Photojournalist. It was released in December.
Cameron says receiving the award was not only a great honour, it also serves as an inspiration for his own photography.
“Being associated with Spremo also means I have to make sure I’m always shooting good pictures.”