Edward Gajdel

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Edward Gajdel (born August 1, 1958) is a Polish-born photographer based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, best known for his celebrity portraits and art photography.[1]

Early life[edit]

A native of Sokolka, Poland, Gajdel carries a rich heritage as the son of a Russian-born father and a Polish mother. The threads of his family's story weave through the challenging backdrop of a German labour camp during the Second World War, where fate brought his parents together. In 1967, Gajdel set forth on a new chapter, immigrating to Canada with his family and settling in Beiseker, Alberta.

The roots of Gajdel's love for photography were planted at the age of six in Europe. He observed his sister crafting black and white prints in the dim confines of a makeshift darkroom. The enchanting alchemy of this process left an indelible impression on a young Gajdel, a fascination that would endure over the years.

At age ten, after the family's relocation to Canada, Gajdel felt the profound calling to devote his life to photography. This early revelation marked the beginning of a lifelong odyssey, where the enchantment witnessed in that European darkroom would evolve into a profound artistic pursuit.


Gajdel's artistic legacy has left an enduring imprint on the global stage, as his creations grace the prestigious pages of renowned international magazines. His contributions found a permanent residence within the former distinguished Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography and has since become part of The National Gallery collections. Gajdel's commercial portfolio was particularly noteworthy, which took its esteemed place in the curated compilation "50 Years of Advertising" within the revered Royal Ontario Museum.

In a prestigious feature, (Polaroid) P Magazine bestowed the title "Man of the People" upon Gajdel. Within its pages, the late Dr. Oscar Peterson, a long-time subject of Gajdel's, shared, "I never feel as though I'm merely having my photograph taken. I feel part of something larger, something creative and lasting. On film, Gajdel can capture what I want to say through music." This encapsulates the core of Gajdel's photographic mastery, transcending the ordinary to articulate profound narratives in the language of visuals.

The late Norman Jewison, who was the subject of Gajdel’s lens on a few sittings enthusiastically lauded Gajdel's profound expertise. As a director, Jewison admired Gajdel's comprehensive understanding of composition and, more significantly, the intricate art of lighting—a foundational pillar of photography. Gajdel's mastery in orchestrating the interplay of light adds a unique and captivating dimension to the visual storytelling experience.


Gajdel has earned hundreds of accolades, gaining recognition from esteemed organizations nationally and globally. The National Magazine Awards Foundation has repeatedly recognized Gajdel, honouring him with gold, silver, and honourable mentions for his significant contributions to an array of Canadian publications, including Toronto Life, Canadian Business, Financial Times, The Globe and Mail, enRoute and others. The Advertising and Design Club of Canada Awards, The Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators (CAPIC) and the Applied Arts Magazine Annual Awards have repeatedly acknowledged his creative influence, which extends beyond national borders. Gajdel has also garnered repeated acclaim from renowned entities such as the American Photography Annual, World Press Photo and Communication Arts, where he holds eleven Awards of Excellence, reflecting his exceptional skills in orchestrating impactful editorial and advertising campaigns. The prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. A testament to his outstanding contributions to the field. Additionally, the Innoversity Summit in October 2006, dedicated to celebrating innovation, creativity, and diversity in the Canadian media landscape, singled out for his pivotal role in fostering inclusivity and innovation. Gajdel's lasting impact reaches beyond the confines of the lens, shaping a more dynamic and diverse media narrative in Canada.

Professional career[edit]

In 1978, Gajdel embarked on a transformative journey, enrolling in the Photographic Arts Program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. Post-graduation, Gajdel's trajectory soared as he enrolled in a workshop with acclaimed photographer Michel Tcherevkoff, subsequently earning an invitation to intern with him in New York.

Upon returning to Calgary, he began building a reputation in advertising and editorial, capturing the essence of diverse subjects, from documenting rock concerts for Brimstone Productions to honing skills in fashion photography and still life. His artistic acumen thrived and evolved. Yet, portraiture seized Gajdel's heart, becoming the focal point of his artistic odyssey. Fueled by ambition in the fall of 1983, Gajdel ventured to Europe to explore opportunities with Vogue Italia. Although slated to commence shooting for the magazine in early 1984, the journey took an unexpected turn. Returning to Canada for the Christmas break, Gajdel found love and got engaged to Djanka, whom he'd met before his European journey. A fortuitous coin toss led them to choose Toronto, his wife's place of origin, as their new residence, where they established their professional pursuits in June 1984.

After settling in Toronto, Gajdel assisted various fashion photographers, swiftly attracting editorial assignments from esteemed publications like Toronto Life, Flare, Entertainment Weekly, and MacLeans. Before long, Gajdel established his own studio, crafting visual narratives for a global clientele in corporate, advertising, and editorial pursuits, amassing a trove of well-deserved awards.

Personal life and other activities[edit]

In the tapestry of his life, Gajdel emerges as a maestro in photography - an artist whose canvas is the very fabric of human existence. Beyond the count of three children and a bouquet of grandchildren lays a career that unfolds like a timeless masterpiece, capturing moments in the delicate interplay of light and shadow. Gajdel's lens has graced the pages of numerous international magazines, weaving from GQ. to Elle to Time - Fortune, Esquire - Life. His portraiture has immortalized figures like Prime Ministers Jean Chrétien and Brian Mulroney. Presidents Eduardo Frei (Chile) and Carlos Salina de Gortari and Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico). From Hollywood luminaries such as Stephen King to Tom Hanks, Marcia Gaye Harden to Faye Dunaway to Christopher Plummer and in the sports world, Wayne Gretzky to Vince Carter. All have graced his visual tableau. Yet, Gajdel's lens isn't confined to the realm of fame. It ventures into diverse spheres, capturing quiet heroes and visionaries, astronauts to poets, scientists to painters—a kaleidoscope of humanity.

A master of his craft, Gajdel skilfully redefines his tools, seamlessly merging technology and artistry. Beyond the realm of traditional photography, his lens delves into the intricacies of visual communication, acknowledging the profound impact of the written word in a visual context. Shaped by the challenges of learning a new language as a young immigrant, he infused his photography with nuanced narratives. His pioneering work includes creating the nonlinear portrait showcasing his adaptability in the ever-evolving digital landscape of contemporary photography. With over four decades of luminous contribution, Gajdel now sets his sights on weaving his visual journey into a book.

Gajdel's contributions extend beyond the lens; he was the first Canadian photo-laureate commission for LOT42 Global Flex Campus in Kitchener, Ontario. He is also a filmmaker whose work has appeared in various international film festivals. His first short film, “ Repeat,” played at the Berlin and Buffalo Film Festivals, and his 2017 documentary, “Just An Inconvenience, A Portrait of Rosemary," where he was the Cinematographer, Editor and Sound Editor, played at the Buffalo Film Festival, He was the Cinematographer and Assistant Director on “Unearthing Ogawa.” A widely acclaimed documentary that played in major film festivals in the US, Canada, Australia and Cannes, France. Aired on PBS, it was named Best US Documentary by the International Manhattan Film Awards in July 2022.

Gajdel generously shares his wisdom through lectures and internships, upholding the integrity of photography from its transition from analogue to digital, and is a champion in the cause of copyright. He has been a member of CAPIC since 1982 and the American Society of Media Photographers for decades. Impelled by the generosity his family received upon arriving in Canada, Gajdel channels his talents to support various charitable causes. Gajdel is a stalwart advocate for education and vulnerable populations, believing strongly in giving back to society.

Recognized as the Irving Penn of Canada, Gajdel crafts his narratives with the finesse of a painter, wielding light as his brush. Behind the lens, he assumes a monk's quietude, capturing the essence of his subjects void of ego with a silent yet assertive demeanour. His work echoes the intensity of Penn and Albert Watson, embodying a contemporary spirit that reinvents itself. While he calls Toronto home, his work reflects a nomad traversing the globe, seeking inspiration in every corner.

His signature photographs are Leonard Cohen, Oscar Peterson, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Norman Jewison, Chris Farley, Leslie Nielsen, Metallica, David Cronenberg, John Irving, Tomson Highway, Irving Layton, Sarah Polley, and the Cast of Frasier. His signature commercial projects are Coco-Cola, Economic Development Trade and Tourism—Ontario, One World American/Delta Airlines, Air Canada, Price Waterhouse Coopers, and Lotus Notes.

Gajdel has left an indelible mark on the visual landscape, captured through the lens of a master.


  1. ^ "Edward Gajdel at O'Born Contemporary". www.oborncontemporary.com. Archived from the original on 17 April 2015. Retrieved 3 October 2012.




External links[edit]

https://edwardgajdel.com/ https://salonvoltaire.tumblr.com/pastspeakers