Picture-perfect view of Canada

Couple travelling the country, taking photos of everyday Canadians

Joey Smith webcomments@ngnews.ca
Published on July 31, 2014
Tim Van Horn and his girlfriend Cecile Pelian are travelling the country and taking photos of everyday Canadians. On Wednesday, they stopped in Truro to photograph local residents in front of the Truro library on Prince Street.
Joey Smith – Truro Daily News

TRURO – As Tim Van Horn steps outside of his 25-foot motor home to chat with a local man, his girlfriend Cecile Pelian quickly checks on lunch.

“We are trying something new, is to cook a pizza in a frying pan,” Cecile, who is from France, says in a heavy accent as she takes the cover off the hot pan that sits over a propane flame.

“Maybe you would like to have some with us,” she offers a local reporter, who respectfully declines, and apologizes for showing up during lunchtime.

“We have late lunch, no problem at all,” Cecile quips. “Life on the road is not really scheduled, you know, so it’s no problem.”

Being on the road is something Tim and Cecile have grown accustomed to.

Tim is the brainchild of the Canadian Mosaic Project, an initiative he started in 2008 to bring Canadians from all walks of life together. During the past six years he has travelled the country, photographing people in an effort to help unite a nation. Cecile joined him seven months ago.

“We’re here to bring Canada together one person at a time, one story at a time, and what better way to bring Canada together than to go to all these communities, large and small,” Tim, a 45-year-old from Red Deer, Alta., said on Wednesday as he sat in his 2006 Class C Ford motor home on Prince Street in Truro.

Tim’s end goal is to photograph 54,000 Canadians and put those faces on a 40-foot bus – “a high-tech pavilion on wheels,” as he puts it – which will travel the country in 2017 – the year of Canada’s 150th birthday.

“It’s the Canada bus and it embarks on this 18-month trip across the country as this pavilion, and inspires us to believe in ourselves and our communities and our country, and talks about some of the values of being Canadian and what is important to us and what do we maybe need to do better,” said Tim.

Tim, who grew up in a military family, said he has always felt a responsibility to his country, which was a motivating factor for the project.

“I have a sense of duty, but I’m not military material, so this is my creative tour of duty to do something for my country,” he said. “So I’ve married my art with my sense of duty and I do things I think we need to see here in Canada.”

Since 2008, Tim has travelled across the country four times. He takes two- to three-month breaks only during the winter to rejuvenate and get caught up on design work for the bus.

And while he readily admits that his nomadic life can become tiresome, it’s the people he meets who make it all worthwhile.

“Let’s just say it’s hard living on the road all the time, but meeting the people fills you up,” he said. “Meeting the people is why we do this. We all have a story that we share, that we emit – some are very sad stories and some are beautiful, happy stories. I’m learning all this information about life with every encounter, with every person.”

Tim said his family and friends have been supportive of his endeavour and are impressed with his determination to see the project to the end.

“For me it’s a responsibility to the Canadian people that I complete this,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, this is a gift and a privilege to be in this position to bring Canada together.”

Fast facts

* 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.