Building a Canadian mosaic, one portrait at a time

Photographer Tim Van Horn collecting 54,000 images for Canada’s 150th birthday.

Red Deer

Tim Van Horn is turning a Canadian icon into a cultural picture of Canada’s people, creating a sense of togetherness and identity to reveal to the country on its 150th birthday in 2017.

The Canadian Mosaic Project is his brainchild — the collecting of 54,000 portraits of individuals from coast to coast to coast, incorporating them into a giant Canadian flag. It’s a project that has taken the Red Deer, Alberta photographer close to seven years — and he still isn’t done.

Van Horn is travelling the country for the fifth time and stopped in Sidney May 12. He was returning to a community he first visited in 2012 and planned to set up on a street corner near one of the town’s familiar murals.

“Maybe I’ll see some of the characters I took pictures of back then,” he said during a stop off at the News Review.

It happens more often than you might think, he said. Over his travels, not only has he met up with people whose picture he took years ago, but has also seen familiar faces in multiple communities. He documents the changes he sees in their faces from years past, but, Van Horn noted, Canada is a large country and he hopes to get off the beaten track and see new places and meet different people.

“It’s a cultural tour of Canada,” he said. “I feel there’s a need for an accurate representation … a real life look at people in Canada.”

Growing up in a military family, Van Horn said he learned a lot in his travels as a child and developed a strong sense of duty. A photographer from an early age, he decided in 2008 to combine those traits and give something back. His vision is to “celebrate, encourage and inspire harmony of all peoples and cultures in Canada.”

To do that, he’ll combine the portraits into the flag mosaic and wrap it around a bus.

He’ll drive it from Victoria on Canada Day in 2017 on a year-long journey from Mile Zero to the east coast of the country. He admitted it’ll be a feel-good tour for the country’s 150th birthday and hopefully get people thinking about their neighbours and share a national spirit.

The mosaic is one piece of his Canadian Mosaic Project — Van Horn is working on a 150-page book called A New Canada as well as social media, digital and audio material to be part of an interactive pavilion.

Van horn began his latest journey on Salt Spring Island and plans on staying on Vancouver Island for six weeks. He’ll be in the prairie provinces in the late summer, Ontario and Quebec for the fall and by winter, he hopes to be in the Maritimes. He’s doing much of the work himself — from social media and  planning to collecting donations along the way. Van Horn said it’s important to him that his project not have corporate sponsors.

“This should be something that everyone can be a part of,” he said.

To help him on his quest, people can donate a suggested $20 per kilometre, or any other amount they would like.

To do so, visit canadianmosaic.ca or reach Van Horn via email at tim@canadianmosaic.ca, at Facebook.com/canadianmosaic, Twitter @canadianmosaic or on Instagram: Canadianmosaic.