Tim Van Horn is on a pilgrimage — a never-ending one.
It was hard not to notice the Red Deer native in downtown Trail on Wednesday. He’s driving a motorhome adorned with 25,000 photos of Canadians that he’s taken over the course of his journey that began way back in 2008.
He thought he was only going to embark on his project for a year but here he is, over eight years later, and making his third stop in Trail as part of his Canadian Mosaic Project.
“We have this wonderful country yet we don’t have a visual that goes with it,” he explained.
“So I’m on a modern-day pilgrimage to meet and embrace the Canadian public and unite us for the first time in a magical mosaic that reflects our cultural identity, our collective humanity. I want to take all these beautiful life moments and weave them together into one inspirational visual.”
He was taking photos of passersby, he estimates only one in 10 people refuse to have their picture taken, in hopes of showing Canadians who we are and who we can be.
“We need to welcome newcomers, we need to change the mindset of the old school and show the nation what it is that we look like.
“Sometimes people say no ( to having their picture taken) for many reasons. Maybe they’re having a bad day. Maybe they have a friend who has cancer or maybe they have cancer. I’m not on the sidewalk to judge, I’m there to extend my hand.
“It’s not only about the photography, it’s also about this total stranger needing your help. And how you respond to it. It’s also a study on human behaviour as well as a photographic representation.”
Van Horn doesn’t travel in style by a long shot. His motorhome, or mobile pavilion as he likes to call it, does the trick. He’s been on the road for eight-and-a-half years, criss-crossing Canada five times. He takes time off in the winter to upgrade the vehicle, visit family and settle down in a city for a few months before resuming his journey.
“I live off of donations, so it’s a very meagre existence,” he admitted.
He also steadfastly refused to take on any sponsors for the project.
“Something as beautiful as our cultural identity shouldn’t have a logo on it. So I’m not looking for a corporate sponsor. “
He did try to get a Canada 150 grant but was turned down.
“So I continue this journey on my own.”
When the journey will end is hard to say said the 48-year-old Van Horn.
“I have a moral obligation to the people of Canada with this project so I see doing this until retirement.
“The reason I feel that strongly is because there’s a need, more than ever, to inspire. That’s the train I’m pushing, live your dream, live your life with purpose.”
So after more than eight years, photographs of 57,000 people and visiting 1,250 communities, does he have an idea of who a Canadian is?
“I equate the Canadian identity to a world citizen. We are quick to adapt, we are liberal for the most part, open-minded, accepting, and a peaceful people. We have all the world’s nations living here in this one country.
“Canada symbolizes a life that’s peaceful and has opportunity and freedom. Canada is a model the world over for that.”
By the end of 2017 he estimates he’ll have pictures of 70,000 Canadians, including a couple of hundred from Trail from his three visits. The photos can be viewed on his website at www.canadianmosaic.ca. and are there to download free of charge or just to enjoy.
“I’m a military kid. I grew up with the stories of the men and women in the trenches who gave up their lives for freedom. I felt I needed to do something on that level and so this is my country, these are our people. So I marry my art with my sense of duty and I’m grateful.”