A Portrait of Canada's Parliament: An architectural photographer's tribute

When he was 23 years old, William McElligott was given a camera. It was a going away present from his brother.

McElligott would use this gift to capture the world.

“That started it all because I ended up spending two years travelling around the globe before I came back,” said McElligott.

During a visit to the Taj Mahal, McElligott shared a brief encounter with a seasoned photographer that would change his life.

“He told me that he made his living from being a photographer and I couldn’t believe that,” he said.

“I had no idea that people could travel the world and make a living doing it. That sort of hooked me.”

Since that time, photography has been McElligott’s living and his life.

“That’s all I’ve done.”

At 71 years old, McElligott is one of our country’s celebrated architectural photographers.

“I think architects are the artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries,” said McElligott.

His most recent photographic subject is Parliament, a building familiar to all Canadians.

“There are a lot of beautiful buildings, but this building has one of the most breathtaking views from the building looking out and from where we are looking in.”

For the last four and a half years, McElligott has snapped more than 6,000 photos of Parliament; 170 of those images are showcased in his new book, “A Portrait of Canada’s Parliament”.

McElligott was commissioned to capture Parliament in 2016. He describes the project as an assignment of a lifetime.

“They said, ‘Would you like to be the photographer?’ And it didn’t take me long to say, ‘Yeah, I would be honoured. ’”

“I had years to complete the book, so I could take my time. If I didn’t get the shot I wanted, I’d just go back until I got it. It was a privilege to be able to do that,” said the photographer.

“It’s a humbling experience to be able to photograph that building in all types of light.”

Accompanying McElligott’s photos is a series of thoughtfully written chapters authored by respected architects, conservationists, historians, House of Commons experts, and dignitaries.

Moments of awe were a daily occurrence for McElligott on Parliament Hill where he had privileged access.

“I actually got to go right to the bottom of the mast, right up to the top and open the trap door. I couldn’t get out because there’s nowhere to stand. But I’m at the very top and my wife Norma Lu Brown was with me, and we did it on Canada Day. It was an unbelievable experience. I get goosebumps thinking about it,” recollects McElligott.

Given the ongoing restoration of Parliament Hill, McElligott’s book may be one of the few ways for Canadians to view this architectural wonder in this light.

“I’m very proud of this book. I hope a lot of people, especially Canada’s youth, get to see it. I think it should be in all of the schools and libraries.”

A Portrait of Canada’s Parliament is published by ECW Press and is available at http://www.wpmcelligott.com and fine bookstores everywhere.