Almost six years and over 33,000 portrait shots later, Red Deer photographer Tim Van Horn isn’t showing any signs of slowing down when it comes to his mission to unite Canada through a mosaic of photos.
The 45-year-old has been living and working on the road since October 2008, zigzagging from places like Victoria, B.C., over to Charlottetown, P.E.I., and back across the county again a total of five times.
He spent this Canada Day in Halifax, at Pier 21, the national museum of immigration, capturing 714 portraits to add to his project — a giant Canadian flag mosaic featuring photos of everyday Canadians.
The final product will be unveiled in Ottawa on July 1, 2017, just in time for Canada’s 150th birthday party.
“I’m travelling from Halifax all the way to Vancouver this year, going to the Prairies and doing a major project in the Wood Buffalo region, shooting up there for nine days,” said Van Horn. “I’ll be wintering on Vancouver Island and then setting out in early spring, to go all the way back across the country.” He added he’ll be travelling from coast to coast right up until the end of 2016 to bring awareness to the Canadian Mosaic Project.
So far, he’s visited upwards of 500 towns and cities.
“It continues to grow. The momentum is amazing,” Van Horn said.
He originally lived out of a van he had gutted and remodelled. But after three years, his body had had enough of the cramped conditions.
“I couldn’t stand up in the van. … When you’re on the road for eight months straight, it’s really hard to live in a van so I wanted to be able to sit at a table, get my workflow going, have power,” he said.
Last month, he upgraded to a 25-foot RV, complete with a newer version of mosaic photos decorating the vehicle’s exterior.
“I have all the amenities and I feel it’s just a healthier environment to be in long term on the road.”
In 2017, not only will the final product — a 10-by-30-metre tapestry of 54,000 Canadian faces — make its first public appearance, but a 12-metre Canadian Mosaic bus (or education pavilion, as Van Horn calls it) will also take to the road for one year to share Van Horn’s story and art in Canadian schools and at community events.
“It’s completely wrapped in photographs, does projection off its top. Audio comes out of it and I’m going to rig up the iPad so that when it goes to a school, it will be an interactive, multimedia display on wheels,” Van Horn said.
“I’m really adamant that as many Canadians see and experience this mosaic as possible, so it simply isn’t enough for me to have it in a museum in Ottawa. … It will give the country something to follow for a year.”
There will also be a new website paying tribute to the project’s end result, with each of the 54,000 portraits uploaded so users can click on each for more information on that citizen.
Van Horn will be self-publishing a book, A New Canada, full of the photos, quotes and stories from the journey as well.
While living on the go has its challenges, Van Horn said the people he’s met along the way who have shared food and inspiring tales drive home how significant the project is. And, despite being over nine million square km, Canada has come to feel like a small hometown, he said.
“I keep running into people that I’ve photographed in different parts of the country over and over again. It’s really surprising in the second largest country in the world that someone I photographed last year in Halifax, I see again this year.”
Van Horn continues to fund the project out of his own pocket and through his online campaign, where the public can sponsor him for $20 per kilometre.
For more information or to make a donation, visit www.canadianmosaic.ca.