After more than three decades of capturing many different stories, Andrew Vaughan decided to put the lens cap on and retire from The Canadian Press.
Vaughan, 69, has been a photographer with CP since 1986. On Nov. 7, he announced he would retire at the end of 2022.
Known across Canada for his work, he has been nominated for seven National Newspaper Awards and won four. Vaughan has covered mass shootings, snowstorms and curling championships, but his priority has always been the person in the story.
“You can meet the people on Spring Garden Road or you can meet them in the middle of London, England,” said Vaughan. “But that’s the big fascination that I’ve had with my job.”
Vaughan got his start in the summer of 1979, as a photographer in Edmonton working for the Alberta government. In 1983, he moved to Ottawa and was hired by The Canadian Press after a couple years of freelancing.
Since working with CP, Vaughan has travelled the world. But an assignment that sticks out to him was when he worked with The Associated Press in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.
On Sept. 13, two days after the attacks that struck New York and brought down the World Trade Centre, he spotted a crying young woman holding a sign with her fiancé’s name outside Bellevue Hospital.
“I’m looking at her and I start to take a couple frames,” said Vaughan. “And you don’t really engage with people because they’re just so distraught, but I thought she was going to faint.”
The woman Vaughan talked to was Rachel Uchitel, and his photo was printed by the New York Post and then went around the world. Uchitel made headlines again years later during the Tiger Woods controversy.
Vaughan said he thinks the reason his picture resonated with so many people was because he shot an “actual person as opposed to a structure.”
Spotting a character
Michael MacDonald is a reporter/editor for The Canadian Press, and has worked there for 32 years. He has reported on “a little bit of everything” with Vaughan for more than 20 years.
“I can tell you that Andrew Vaughan is easily one of the hardest working people I’ve ever worked with,” said MacDonald.
What MacDonald appreciated the most about Vaughan was his ability to spot a character in a story.
“I can’t tell you the number of times where I was covering something … and Andrew would casually say to me, ‘See that person over there? You should talk to that person,’ ” he said.
Vaughan has two children and one granddaughter. His wife, Elaine McCluskey, is a former journalist with The Canadian Press and an author of six novels with a seventh in the works. While Vaughan is grateful for his career, he could not have done well without his family.
“The biggest thing that you sacrifice is your family,” said Vaughan. “They put up with a lot of times, where on birthdays, anniversaries, to holidays you’re not there … my job would have never happened without that support from my family.”
When McCluskey worked for CP, she found it hard to maintain her family and her career. Especially when Vaughan was “on call 24/7.”
“Once we had two children and we were both supposed to drop everything and go off on the big story, it just wasn’t going to work anymore,” said McCluskey.
McCluskey said she took the role of the “support person” for Vaughan, providing feedback and ideas, as she understands the story-making process. In his retirement, she now expects Vaughan to do the same for her.
“I’m still working because I’m a writer,” she said. “So the joke is that Andrew’s just going to drive me around to writing festivals.”
Except for being McCluskey’s chauffeur, Vaughan has no plans for his retirement. He is looking forward to the down time, but he does not want to retire without providing some advice for young journalists.
“You just have to be respectful with the people that you’re dealing with, even if they’re not treating you with the same amount of respect that they should.
“Stay hydrated and wear your sunscreen too.”
About the author
Jake Webb is a fourth-year student in the Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) program at the University of King's College.