Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: A photographic year in review

Photos by Adam Scotti

Adam Scotti
13 min readDec 20, 2020
Remember when the biggest news story was the PM keeping his holiday beard? Ah, simpler times, eh?

I have never had time to do a lengthy year in review. December is often referred to as “silly season” in our world - last minute House of Commons responsibilities, holiday parties across the country, year-end interviews, even an international trip or two for good measure. There is little time to look back on the year that was — especially as my six month burnout cycle reaches its tipping point.

The simple lack of travel has freed up just enough time for me to look back on a unique year.

Below is a collection of 150+ photos from the year. Some I am proud of for photographic reasons, others I hope will shed light on what life is like for myself and others in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Nothing really prepares you for the job of photographer to a head of government. You figure it out as you go along. Looking back on photos from 2015 can make me cringe either because I missed good photos or I know I could have done better. But you learn, you grow and you keep pushing yourself to memorialize as much as you can as well as you can — and always on the fly.

And then 2020 arrived, and in a sense, I had to learn the job all over again. In-person interactions became scarcer, the PM didn’t travel or wade into crowds anymore. Many days were spent largely on calls or on video conferences. I had to get creative while still trying to convey the emotional gravity and seriousness of what we were facing. Nothing could prepare us for the year that was.

PM Trudeau leaves his office after being updated regarding flight PS752. The clenched fist really stands out to me. Ottawa. 2020/01/08
Ottawa. 2020/01/08
Waiting for a call with President Trump, Chief of Staff Katie Telford checks her phone. 2020/01/08
One of the many Incident Response Group (IRG) meetings. Ottawa. 2020/01/09
Ottawa. 2020/01/09
Ottawa. 2020/01/09
Ottawa. 2020/01/09
Ottawa. 2020/01/09
A meeting room at a hotel in Richmond Hill, Ontario. PM Trudeau met with families of the victims of PS752 throughout the day. 2020/01/10
Richmond Hill. 2020/01/10
Ottawa. 2020/01/11
PM Trudeau speaks with former PM Jean Chrétien. Ottawa. 2020/01/17
PM Trudeau catches up with Members of Parliament and staff following their return to Ottawa. 2020/01/22
Ottawa. 2020/01/22.
IRG meeting. Ottawa. 2020/01/27
The House of Commons pauses for a moment of silence in memory of the victims of PS752. 2020/01/27
Minister of Health Patty Hajdu updates the PM. Ottawa. 2020/01/28
One series I always look forward to working on is documenting the places where we manage to squeeze in a run. Barcelona fuel stop. 2020/02/07
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 2020/02/08
President of the European Council Charles Michel compliments the PM on the beard. A surreal photo to look back on before COVID-19 loomed over all human interaction. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 2020/02/09
PM Trudeau helps out advisor Patrick Travers by tying his shoelace. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 2020/02/10
Too many bilateral meetings to count. I try to keep myself busy by finding different ways to photograph the same room. We are all exhausted after a day like this. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 2020/02/10
The PM’s Executive Assistant, Phil Proulx, in many of the different waiting areas on our trip to Ethiopia, Kuwait, Senegal and Germany.
PM Trudeau is briefed aboard RCAF01, flying from Ethiopia to Kuwait. 2020/02/10
Kuwait. 2020/02/10
Kuwait. 2020/02/10
Sometimes we don’t have a lot of time at a photo op and get pushed out before we can get a clear image — these are always more fun than the photo we are expected to take. Kuwait. 2020/02/10
Kuwait. 2020/02/11
Dakar, Senegal. 2020/02/12
Dakar, Senegal. 2020/02/12
Dakar, Senegal. 2020/02/12
Speechwriter Gabrielle Cesvet was always fun to watch as the PM delivered a speech she had written. Dakar, Senegal. 2020/02/13
Kéri, Senegal. 2020/02/13
PM Trudeau takes a phone call on RCAF01. 2020/02/14
Munich, Germany. 2020/02/14
No matter how many speech revisions you do, there are always more changes. Blessing and a curse for those who write for a teacher. Munich, Germany. 2020/02/14
My first day back in the office (minus a week-long trip to Africa) after my daughter was born. Here she is checking out the place. Ottawa. 2020/03/02
Handshakes, remember those? Halifax. 2020/03/03
If you have never been to a citizenship ceremony, go. We are lucky to be Canadian. Here, PM Trudeau makes a surprise appearance at one in Wolfville, NS. 2020/03/03
Montreal. 2020/03/04
Old photos can take on new meaning. It was recently revealed that Rogers is considering tearing down the iconic Skydome. Toronto. 2020/03/09
Dad jokes never fail. Ottawa. 2020/03/09
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Doctor Theresa Tam. Ottawa. 2020/03/11
Ottawa. 2020/03/11
Lunch meetings. Ottawa. 2020/03/11
One of my last photos from a packed House of Commons. Ottawa. 2020/03/11
Last photo of the PM in the office before he enters self isolation. Ottawa. 2020/03/11
Katie Telford reacts to news that the prime minister’s wife, Sophie, tested positive for COVID-19. Ottawa. 2020/03/12
PM Trudeau walks back into his house, Rideau Cottage, and isolation following a press conference. Ottawa. 2020/03/13
Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez puts forward a motion to suspend the House of Commons due to concerns about COVID-19. Ottawa. 2020/03/13
Ottawa at rush hour following a province-wide lockdown. 2020/03/16
Ottawa. 2020/03/16
With the PM in isolation, staff listen in on a G7 leaders call. Ottawa. 2020/03/16
Ottawa. 2020/03/16
Speechwriter Gabrielle Cesvet prepares for the long haul. Ottawa. 2020/03/17
Ottawa. 2020/03/17
Doctor Tam before a Cabinet meeting in West Block. Ottawa. 2020/03/17
Ottawa. 2020/03/17
Ottawa. 2020/03/17
Ottawa. 2020/03/17
What would normally be packed locations during St. Patrick’s Day in Ottawa. 2020/03/17
Ottawa. 2020/03/23
Laps around Rideau Cottage during isolation. Ottawa. 2020/04/06
First day back in the office means he had a lot of paperwork to bring back with him. Ottawa. 2020/04/08
A socially distant House of Commons. Ottawa. 2020/04/11
Waiting to go out for another press conference outside of Rideau Cottage. Ottawa. 2020/04/16
Lunch at Rideau Cottage. Ottawa. 2020/04/16
A G7 meeting without the travel. Ottawa. 2020/04/16
PM Trudeau speaks with RCMP officer Chad Morrison who was injured during the manhunt in Nova Scotia. Ottawa. 2020/04/20
Ottawa. 2020/04/22
Prime Minister Trudeau calls families of the victims in Nova Scotia from his home office at Rideau Cottage. Ottawa. 2020/04/22
Sometimes photos line up just right. Ottawa. 2020/04/22
Chief of the Defence Staff Jonathan Vance informs PM Trudeau about a Canadian Forces helicopter crash as Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan looks on. Ottawa. 2020/04/30
Ottawa. 2020/04/30
TV recording took on a new look with distanced tech support and no audience members. Montreal. 2020/05/03
Repatriation of fallen Canadian Armed Forces members. Trenton. 2020/05/06
Ottawa. 2020/05/08
A rare outing outside of the office to meet with public health staff and contact tracers in Ottawa. 2020/05/14
Ottawa. 2020/05/15
We all needed a haircut by now. Ottawa. 2020/05/20
Tech support. Ottawa. 2020/05/28
Ottawa. 2020/05/29
Black Lives Matter. Ottawa. 2020/06/05
A graduation like no other for the class of 2020. Ottawa. 2020/06/05
Between photographing and editing, glimpses of a television is the only news I get from outside of my immediate surroundings. Ottawa. 2020/06/11
I maxed out my creativity for the week and turned to “zoomers” for a different take. Ottawa.
Workplace essentials. Ottawa. 2020/06/18
Gatineau. 2020/06/24
Once a teacher, always a teacher. I know better than to ask him to edit my captions. Ottawa. 2020/06/25
Ottawa. 2020/06/26
Ottawa. 2020/07/29
PM Trudeau knocks before entering Governor General Julie Payette’s office at Rideau Hall. Ottawa. 2020/08/18
Ottawa. 2020/08/18
The Tent Room at Rideau Hall. Ottawa. 2020/08/18
Ottawa. 2020/08/18
Podium prep. Brockville. 2020/08/21
A visit to the National Research Council of Canada’s facility in Montreal ahead of announcing COVID-19 vaccine procurement and production plans. 2020/08/31
Ottawa. 2020/09/03
Ottawa. 2020/09/10
With more than 100 flights in a normal year, you stop looking out the window because you are working or trying to catch up on sleep. Suddenly I found myself enjoying every minute of what few flights we had this year. Watershed 144. 2020/09/11
Ottawa. 2020/09/14
The PM often paces on phone calls and it only took me five years to figure out a way to capture it properly. Ottawa. 2020/09/14
Wear. A. Mask. Members of Cabinet show off their masks. Ottawa. 2020/09/15
Deputy Prime Minister Freeland often sports running shoes between events. Ottawa. 2020/09/15
Never ending days in a never ending year. Ottawa. 2020/09/15
You see an artsy photo, I see a photographer tired of running ahead. Ottawa. 2020/09/21
Speech from the Throne 2019 vs 2020. Ottawa. 2020/09/23
The ongoing reality in the House of Commons. Ottawa. 2020/09/23
PM Trudeau takes a few minutes to reflect prior to addressing the nation on the state of COVID-19 in Canada. Ottawa. 2020/09/23
Ottawa. 2020/09/23
Ottawa. 2020/09/25
My daughter as she tries to sneak up on the boss. Ottawa. 2020/09/28
Ottawa. 2020/09/28
The various floors of West Block. Ottawa. 2020/09/30
Balance, right? Ottawa. 2020/09/30
Communion in the time of COVID. Toronto. 2020/10/06
Former Prime Minister John Turner, June 7, 1929 — September 19, 2020. Toronto. 2020/10/06
I still try to find a new photo each day, even five years in. Ottawa. 2020/10/13
I don’t know why I am so entertained by people calling into press conferences, but I love it. Ottawa. 2020/10/13
A double exposure image as I continued to try out new ideas. Ottawa. 2020/10/20
And then I got out the monopod, stood on a chair and prayed my camera wouldn’t fall. Ottawa. 2020/10/29
Ottawa. 2020/11/02
Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains goes into his regeneration alcove. A Scotti cannot pass up the chance for a Star Trek reference. Ottawa. 2020/11/02
Ottawa. 2020/11/06
Ottawa. 2020/11/09
PM Trudeau speaks with President Elect Joe Biden. Ottawa. 2020/11/09
Sometimes the light is just right. Ottawa. 2020/11/09
Ottawa. 2020/11/09
Ottawa. 2020/11/10
A very different Remembrance Day ceremony as access was limited and crowds were discouraged from gathering. Ottawa. 2020/11/11
Ottawa. 2020/11/11
Ottawa. 2020/11/11
Event appearances and “backstage” look like this now. Ottawa. 2020/11/16
Ottawa. 2020/11/17
Ottawa. 2020/11/17
Ottawa. 2020/11/18
Question period prep. Ottawa. 2020/11/18
Walking to the National Press Theatre. Ottawa. October-November 2020.
To file under weird things we are given — the PM tries on a face mask and an eye mask with his likeness on them. Ottawa. 2020/11/19
PM Trudeau returned to working from Rideau Cottage as COVID-19 numbers across Canada began to rise again. Ottawa. 2020/11/24
You don’t see many photos from cabinet due to cabinet confidentiality rules. Here is an image I captured between sessions. Ottawa. 2020/12/03
Intergovernmental meeting with provincial and territorial leaders. Ottawa. 2020/12/10
It is really nice to leave the office / the media tent at Rideau Cottage. Ottawa. 2020/12/11
You’d think year-end interview season would be easier without the travel. Ha! Let’s do the interviews outside in -15C! Ottawa. 2020/12/14
Ministers and officials check their phones on a break from a marathon cabinet meeting. Ottawa. 2020/12/14
PM Trudeau visits Ottawa’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic. 2020/12/15
One of Ottawa’s first vials of the COVID-19 vaccine. Ottawa. 2020/12/15
Ottawa. 2020/12/16
Sometimes I think I am clever. Ottawa. 2020/12/17
Happy holiday video conferencing to all. 2020/12/17

For the photo geeks and the curious:

Photo by Patrick Woodbury (thanks Pat!)

Storage and archiving

Due to storage constraints, I do two rounds of deleting images as I narrow down what to edit and archive. To give you a ballpark idea, if I were to take 1,000 photos in a day, I would keep about 300–400 of them, then only edit about 100–200 of them.

From 52,000 saved images, I have filed around 15,000 photos this year — meaning I have personally shot, edited, captioned and sorted that many photos.

During our first year in the office, I mimicked the White House in not deleting a single photo, period. If I shot 2,000 photos in a day, I kept them. A year in, I could not get enough drives fast enough to keep up with the storage requirements when the terabytes of photos needed a permanent home.

I use Adobe Lightroom for all of this, more out of habit than anything else. Surely there are better ways to go about it, but I have a system and know whatever kinks may pop up — always being on the go and with quick turnaround times, I don’t have the time to work something new out.

As for sharing photos in a normal year, I coordinate with our different advance staffers or event coordinators who will share photos with event organizers (side note: please never accuse a photographer of not sharing photos. What a horrible business model that would be. Always ask the organizers to share, they surely have received them!).

We maintain folders for each one of the MPs and Ministers in our government, as well as specific folders for staff (PCO, Senior Staff and PMO), Security (RCMP/Canadian Forces, Parliament) and support staff. I found this to be easier than sending out individual photos as a one-person photo office for the first three years.


My regular equipment is as follows: 2 Canon 5D Mark IV, 1 Canon Eos R, Canon 16–35 f2.8, Canon 24–70 f2.8, Canon 70–200 f2.8 — then some primes for extreme low light or more predictable days; Canon 24 f1.4, Canon 85 f1.8 and my beloved Canon 135 f2.

Two memory card slots are essential because we live in fear of something messing up. Raw files to the CF card, lower res jpegs to the SD card.

For the past month I have been trying out the Sony A9ii with a variety of prime lenses. The tracking is phenomenal and the ability to shoot completely silent is perfect for this job. I have run into light flicker issues with the Canon mirrorless in the silent mode in the past, one that they have yet to fix unfortunately (example below).

The rolling shutter of the mirrorless EOS R means you get this banding when in silent mode depending on your light source. Unfortunately you do not realize this until after you have taken the photos — and in our line of work, there is never a “redo”.

More Archiving!

PM Trudeau being the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau has meant that we receive a fair bit of mail containing photos of his father or his own younger self. Canadians send in photos, negatives, magazines, clippings, the list goes on. Some negatives we have are even photos a young Justin Trudeau took as he travelled on official trips with his father.

Until 2020, many of these items collected dust in my office as I daydreamed of one day scanning them before handing them over to Library and Archives Canada. Without the travel and with the dramatic increase in office time, we have slowly been able to tackle this project.

Some recent scans from a not so distant past.

Team and thank yous

In my immediate office, I work alongside photographer Alex Tétreault and until recently, videographer Mathieu Sly who abandoned us for the National Art Gallery.

Our social media wizards are Johanna Robinson and Riley Lange.

Other than the above, I work most closely with the PM’s assistants, Phil Proulx and Cordell Johnson, and Katie Telford’s assistants, Brooke Malinoski and Alex Axiotis-Perez. We spend so much time together that they are practically family at this point.

Katie Telford, Chief of Staff, and Cameron Ahmad, Director of Communications, are my direct bosses but are kind enough to trust me and let me do my own thing without too much adult supervision.

This is a team sport and my life would be impossible without them and the countless others in the Prime Minister’s Office. Advance, planning, scheduling, communications, issues management — thank you to everyone for helping me do my job and putting up with my never ending questions to make sure I am on top of it all.

Oh, and thank you to PMJT for ignoring me most of the time no matter how ridiculous I looked trying to get some of these images.