With his motorhome parked in an empty lot downtown New Glasgow, Tim Van Horn rushes to stop a trio of young women walking down the sidewalk and asks to take their picture.
They happily oblige and stand together on a red dot. With a click of the camera, they become part of what Van Horn hopes to be the big picture of Canada.
Van Horn is working on what he calls the Canadian Mosaic Project. It’s an initiative he started in 2008 to bring Canadians from all walks of life together.
What was supposed to be a one-year-trip when he started out has already consumed six years of his life and he is dedicating another four to the project.
Already he has taken more than 32,000 portraits. His end goal is to take 54,000 pictures and combine them in a mosaic to be unveiled for Canada’s 150th anniversary.
“I always knew I was going to do something good for my country, but I didn’t know what it was,” says 45-year-old Van Horn of Red Deer, Alberta.
He grew up in a military family and says he has a sense of duty. From the time he was about 5 though he knew he wanted to be a photographer and travel. He believes he is living that childhood dream while serving a greater purpose.
“What I do is travel Canada and bring us together to celebrate our values, life and the diversity of it. This is what I think we need here,” he said. “For Canada’s 150th Birthday, I’ve set my goal to unite the country with this beautiful mosaic for the people. It’s 54,000 portraits from sidewalks and intersections across the country.”
Van Horn is covering the costs of the trip through donations from individuals. He said he doesn’t want it to become commercialized.
“Something that’s as sensitive as national identity shouldn’t have a logo on it or a sign on it. It needs to be neutral of everything.”
Life on the open road, travelling with his girl friend Cecile Pelian has been an adventure that he describes as like living a movie.
“After six years, I know how to do it so there’s sanity and normalcy to my life,” he said. “I shoot pictures of people for three, four, five, hours a day and then I travel for a few hours . Then I have home time. Because I have a goal and a mission with this project, it keeps me organized to do it.”
Sacrificing 10 years of his life for his country, he believes is worth it.
“I feel like I’m on a pilgrimage right now. A once in a lifetime pilgrimage to unite the country so all I can think about is how best to do that. That comes at a cost to my own wellbeing. That’s what you do is sacrifice. I’m honoured to be in this.”
* The Canadian Mosaic Project is an initiative aimed at bringing Canada together with 54,000 portraits of everyday Canadians.
* All 54,000 photos will be placed on a bus, which will travel the country in 2017, the year of Canada’s 150th birthday.
* A book titled ‘A New Canada,’ along with an educational website, will also be born from the project.
* Sponsorship is welcome. To sponsor kilometres of the journey, visit http://canadianmosaic.ca.