'A master of his craft': Island photographer Lionel Stevenson remembered through his work

P.E.I. lost an artist Monday who spent a lifetime capturing the Island's beauty and its people.

Lionel Stevenson was born in New Glasgow, P.E.I., in 1939 and died with his wife, painter Terry Dunton Stevenson by his side. He was 77.

"What a loss to the P.E.I. arts community," said award-winning photographer and author John Sylvester. Sylvester came to know Stevenson's work when he first arrived in P.E.I. in 1982 to attend the Holland College School of Visual Arts. 

'Honest, constructive and encouraging'

"He stood out as a master of his craft and I occasionally — and nervously — took some of my work to him to critique. He was honest, constructive and encouraging. He even hired me to do some black and white printing for him." 

Stevenson was a master printer. In 1968 he had the opportunity to assist one of the best silver printers of the 20th century, legendary American photographer Berenice Abbot.

He used the skills learned from Abbot to restore one of the most important photographs in Canadian history, The Fathers of Confederation. 

Stevenson was also exposed to the style of documentary photography, capturing everyday life, which he continued to pursue when he returned to work in Canada.  

Documenting the Island

"We are grateful that we had the opportunity to work closely with Lionel on a survey exhibition of his photographs (1962-2012) and to have co-published a book with Acorn Press, 2012, which documents and acknowledges Stevenson's important contribution to photography in Canada," said Kevin Rice, director of the Confederation Centre Gallery in an email. 

"His major body of work is an important legacy. The Confederation Centre Art Gallery has collected 11 of his photographs for the collection and most recently the very significant portfolio, Elders of the Island, with its 30 wonderful portraits."

Stevenson also published The Island — a collection of black and white photos from around P.E.I.

Keeping up with technology

Technology had a huge influence on photography during Stevenson's life and he kept up with it. He switched to digital once convinced he could maintain control of his work.

His life's portfolio includes landscapes, portraits, architecture, advertising, nature and humorous shots. Stevenson's work can be found in public and private collections across Canada. 

A private memorial service for Lionel Stevenson will be held at a later date. 

The photographs featured in this story have been used with the permission of Terry Dunton Stevenson and the Confederation Centre of the Arts. 

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