By Amanda Symynuk
Peter Power has won four Canadian National Newspaper Awards, a Michener Award for Public Service Journalism and has been recognized by the National Press Photographers Association, News Photographers Association of Canada and others. For 25 years he worked on staff at the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail before launching an independent career after a layoff from the Globe in 2014. He recently took time to talk to me about photographing Cpl. Nathan Cirillo’s funeral in October 2014 and life as a freelance photojournalist.
J-Source: How did you end up photographing the funeral for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo?
Power: I was working for The Canadian Press, and between the three of us we had two working the cortège route: myself and another photographer, Frank Gunn. Nathan Denette was working inside the church. At the end of the service, Frank was in a static position on a ladder, and I was free to move—at least where I could, considering the crowds and the security perimeter around the family and the Prime Minister.
As the family was driving away in the limousines, we all anticipated that being the end of things. But there was a traffic holdup for a moment and everything stopped. It was at this point that I saw that Marcus’ window was down and there was a flag in his hand.
J-Source: What do you think this photograph says?
Power: I don’t know what that photograph says, but it was a very poignant moment. Marcus had been a very brave boy, who I’m sure will only fully understand the gravity of those events in the years to come. That family’s story had become a Canadian one, and the flag on his hand lent itself to that.
I’ve seen some writers try to talk about the meaning of a photograph, and I’ve certainly seen philosophers do similar things. I think that’s a question better asked of the people who are reading or viewing that image, and how or what they take away from it. My job, as a photographer—especially for the paper as a photojournalist—is to see what’s evolving or unfolding in front of me and just make the best visual documentation of that.
We don’t go out and try to make this iconic image. Just an image that’s strong and impactful—how it’s received by the community is very much up to them.