By Tina Comeau
When Tim Van Horn left his home in Red Deer, Alberta on Oct. 1, 2008, to photograph Canadians, he figured he’d be away from home for about one year.
But Canada is a big place, he says, and it has an even larger story to tell.
With his three Nikon cameras and his dog in tow, he’s now been crossing the country for nearly six years collecting portraits of everyday Canadians.
And his years on the road are not over yet.
The end result will come in 2017 when portraits of 54,000 Canadians will form a Canadian mosaic to help connect Canadians from coast to coast to coast as the country celebrates its 150th anniversary.
“I’m trying to promote citizenship with this amazing piece of art,” Van Horn told the Vanguard about the Canadian Mosaic Project during a visit to Yarmouth.
“The mosaic is intended to bring us all together and celebrate life, not even just being Canadian, but life itself, the significance of your life,” Van Horn says, explaining the goal is also to promote community and pride.
He wants to inspire people in this nation to reach out to one another. Reach out across the street and talk to the neighbour you’ve been living next door to for years but have never talked to, he says.
When Van Horn comes into a city, a town or a village he plunks himself in a sidewalk or at roadside and talks to people about his project. During his travels in this province, he says 90 per cent of the people he talks with are enthusiastic about being photographed.
“People are thrilled to be part of something bigger than just their town or their province and it brings everybody together,” he says.
There is no exchange of money. Van Horn stresses he’s not with the government. Rather this is a project he set out to do on his own, although he is being help with the project by his friend Cecile Pelian who he met during his travels.
This isn’t to say that people can’t financially support the project. People can sponsor a kilometre, or more, of the journey through the website. There is also an online store where people can purchase Canadian Mosaic art cards.
After all, when you’re traveling across the country it takes a lot of fuel to fill your tank.
Van Horn used to travel (and live) in a van but two months ago he upgraded to a small RV. He likens it to having moved to the suburbs.
His RV is a mosaic pavilion on wheels, decorated with the many portraits of the Canadians he’s met along the way.
Aside from the website that already exists – and a Canadian Mosaic Facebook page – in 2017 the mosaics will be on display at national museums in the country. A high-tech mobile mosaic pavilion on wheels will also set out on a 365-day odyssey across the country. A book will also be created to commemorate this project and Canada’s 150 years since joining Confederation.
Van Horn says aside from people sharing their smiles in front of his camera lens, many also share their stories, which he is also documenting.
“There are beautiful life moments going on,” he says, adding what he has learned most about this country is the incredible amount of diversity.
Van Horn may not have totally known what he was in store for when he pulled out of his Alberta driveway six years ago. But he knows now he was always meant to do this project.
“At the back of my mind I feel that everybody has perhaps been waiting for me to show up and photograph them,” he says. “People want to feel included in something and so this Canadian Mosaic Project allows people to be involved in this heartfelt look at Canada.”
The Canadian Mosaic Project was in Yarmouth on July 18 and will still be in town on July 19.
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