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Favourite anecdote from a familiar face

Yuri Dojc's shot of a poppy that a soldier picked up the day the Second World War ended.

Last week, I interviewed photographer Yuri Dojc who travelled across Canada taking pictures of veterans for a beautiful book called Honour. I adore this man’s stories. I first spoke to him in 2004 for a Toronto Star article about pivots, or defining moments, and I vividly recall his anecdote of how he became a photographer. I loved it then and I love it now. So I’m sharing it with you in case you missed it:

Yuri Dojc’s pivot came after he moved to Toronto from London, England, in 1969. His roommate asked him “What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know. I’ll probably go back to Europe,” said Dojc, who was 24 at the time.

“Why don’t you become a photographer?”

“What is a photographer?”

“It’s a job.”

“Interesting. Where do you learn this?”

“Ryerson.”

So Dojc went to the Visual Arts building at Ryerson University and looked at the photos on the walls.

“This guy stopped me. I thought he was the superintendent. He said, ‘May I help you?’ I said, ‘I’m just looking at the pictures … My name isYuri Dojc and I came from Czechoslovakia.’

“He said, ‘Come to my office.’ He’s asking me all kinds of questions. We talked politics. And then he said, ‘Where do you live?’ I gave him my address.

“I go home. In about two weeks, I get a letter ‘Dear Mr. Dojc, you are accepted into Ryerson’s photography department. Signed, Dean of the College.’

“The guy I ran into in the hallway was the dean.”

“For everybody else – you have to have a camera, you have to go through exams, you have to have a portfolio. I had nothing. I didn’t even have the knowledge of how a camera operates.”

“Photography became my obsession. I dream about pictures.”

Three decades later, the 58-year-old photographer’s fine art posters and prints grace the walls of collectors and galleries around the world. See his work at http://www.yuridojc.com.

“Two weeks ago, I was driving on Queen St. I saw (the dean). He looked exactly the same. I said, ‘Hi. Do you remember me?’ He said, ‘Of course, I remember you. You’re my prize student.’”

 

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