Edward Gajdel is the Associate Director and Cinematographer of the Japanese segments of Unearthing Ogawa.
He and Steve Meixell first met when Meixell profiled him in a cover article for International Photography magazine years ago. They became fast friends and enthusiastically followed each other’s work.
From his studio on Queen Street West in Toronto, Gajdel had built a reputation as one of Canada’s premier artistic, fashion, commercial, and celebrity photographers, renowned for extracting character through creative direction and treatment of light. His many subjects have included Leonard Cohen, Oscar Peterson, Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, John Irving, and his own thematic explorations (e.g. his series in which he captures people lounging/reposing in their favorite chairs). His portraits have been commissioned by MacLeans, LIFE, The Globe and Mail, Esquire, GQ, Fortune, Elle, Time. Among many international awards, he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
When Meixell called and proposed they go to Japan to follow the Ogawa story on film, he knew Eddie was a photography star, not a cinematographer at the time. But he also knew Gajdel was a master at extracting true emotion, and an all-pro tinkerer with equipment and creative technologies.
“Funny you should be offering,” Gajdel responded. “I’ve just been segueing into film a little and experimenting. If you’re willing to bet on me, let’s do it.”
In prepping for the trip, synergy emerged quickly. Then during the month of shooting in Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kakegawa, and points between, they planned, set-up and orchestrated, filmed on the fly, cut bureaucratic corners, laughed, troubleshot the inevitable problems that arose, peeled back biographical layers, and were fascinated with those they met throughout Japan. “It felt like a very serious UN peace mission with a lot of lighter Hope-Crosby road moments thrown in,” Meixell said. “Working with Eddie was totally in-sync, and you could tell it put our subjects at ease. Doors and people kept opening to us. As an artist and a person, Eddie is top drawer.”
In the course of filming, Edward Gajdel also expressed his profound gratitude to the people and nation of Canada for warmly taking in his family when they emigrated to Alberta from Sokolka, Poland in 1967. His parents had survived the horror of Nazi labor camps during WWII, and sought a new home where they could heal and blossom freely. Canada welcomed them and provided opportunity. Today, Eddie repays the goodwill by reaching out to the vulnerable, including the homeless and poor. His positive attitude and pride in Canada are palpable, contagious, and evident in all he does.
Further biographical details at: http://www.edwardgajdel.com/