ICYMI: Where do you fit in to Canada’s cultural mosaic?

photo Pat Kane

First published June 18, 2014

For the past six years I’ve been living in a van, travelling nine months of the year and photographing Canadians. I’ve taken 34,000 portraits from the far corners of this land in pursuit of the true Canadian identity…and I still have a long way to go.

In 2017, for Canada’s 150th birthday, I will weave and merge together 54,000 portraits from thousands of locations across the country in a giant mosaic of the Canadian flag. We all have a story to tell and share and my hope is that the Canadian Mosaic Project – which will include a travelling educational exhibit in a portrait-covered Canada Bus – will unite and inspire us to believe in ourselves and our communities. This past winter my travels took me to Yellowknife for the third time, where I’ve taken 1,116 portraits. The city seems to grow on me with each visit.


As I strolled around town stopping and photographing people randomly for the Yellowknife mosaic, Yellowknife struck me as a sort of Nelson, B.C. of the North, but with far fewer rules and flashiness. Vibrant, diverse and authentic, it has that rare medley of international flavor and small-town values, all delivered up by a wild and wooly cast of characters in the most amazing of outdoor backdrops. It’s also a generous place. It was cold in March and someone heard me do a radio interview, made a few calls, and got me a free room at the Explorer so I didn’t have to sleep in my van. Javaroma sponsored food for the week, Snowking gave me socks and Nyon Communications is sponsoring a new website for me. I even got a downtown parking ticket waived! I have no corporate sponsorship or arts grants and I’ve pored all my savings into this project. I’m turning to the people of Canada to sponsor a kilometre, a bag of groceries, some gas, whatever they can contribute, through my website: canadianmosaic.ca.

To understand Canada in its entirety, all Canadians need to make the pilgrimage to Yellowknife. No other city seemingly sums up the essence of what it is to be Canadian, or at least the Canada I grew up in, which was simple, real, and adventurous, with a lifestyle based in nature. Have a look at yourselves on the next pages to see what I mean.



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