Saskatchewan: Celebrating the Beauty of Canada’s Most Underrated Province
A book devoted to the majesty of this largely unsung province just seemed long overdue.
A Celebration of the Old Against the New
Perhaps, like me, you have observed the gentle way that clouds touch the earth with shadowed hands, or noticed how a ripple of water undulates the reflected blue of the sky. Maybe you have marveled at how a crack in a rock invites the growth of a tree, or have seen the extraordinary colours changing throughout the seasons. It is a gift of wonder, and rural Saskatchewan offers no end of glorious material for the senses.
Prairie landscapes give an unfettered view of the greatest skies, but to fully appreciate their unsurpassed beauty, one must be still and observe the continual change. Though I was a landscape painter after finishing university, my passions soon shifted to the freedom and creativity of a camera and a darkroom, and I began to express my love for the Saskatchewan Prairie through photography. I took up the challenge to capture the “eureka” moments in nature. As a full-time art teacher, I would spend the summer breaks travelling and taking photographs as far as I could wander, my wife and children in tow. I was always looking for the momentary event in nature, when the light would be just right, the subject touched me, and the science of the camera could capture an outstanding image.
Seemingly lost in the centre of this vast nation, Saskatchewan seems too far west to be noticed by many Canadians and too far east to be anything but Trans-Canada flatlands to our western counterparts. But the geologic and cultural diversity within this four-sided postage stamp of a province is constantly surprising and ever delightful. Rural Saskatchewan is a celebration of the old against the new—cowboys to computerized combines; remnants and relics of barnyards to cutting-edge farm construction; old machinery buried in centuries of growth to innovative vehicles traversing the back roads in a daily commute.
The Inspiration for Love This Saskatchewan
Some of my favourite landscape photographs highlight areas in rural Saskatchewan that are truly special places. Many times over the years I have returned to particular locations to see what has changed or disappeared, like a time-lapse of sorts, watching and looking to record that evolution through a unique image. My photography takes me to all points rural and natural in the province, from woodlands to grasslands, boreal forests to sand dunes in the north. It touches the heartstrings of the past—mud-filled trails glistening in sunset gold, blue skies and distant horizons, sparkling indigo heavens painted with the northern lights. It’s as much as I can take in.
The inspiration for my book, Love This Saskatchewan, came from Canada’s 150th birthday celebration in 2017, and my desire to capture the province’s place and time in history. I wanted to show and tell what makes this unsung land so special. Over 100 photographs have been carefully selected and grouped into sections meant to showcase the province and make this book visually exciting to the reader. Fittingly, sections resemble topics that might be discussed over coffee in a small Prairie town on a Saturday morning, such as the weather, the seasons, the roads, people, or the animals. One section, “Iconic Saskatchewan,” tells the story of things people have salvaged, what they once called valuable—a rusty metal gate, an old truck, a wagon, old cars and windmills.
A Unique Piece of the Canadian Mosaic
It didn’t take long before I knew this book needed a voice, a tale, a narrator. My photographs could tell one part of the story, but there are many amazing creative men and women who share my passion for the Prairie. I approached 14 prominent Saskatchewan writers, artists and musicians who I felt could portray the spirit and theme of the book, and their stories are fantastic, giving a reality to the book that images alone could never capture! Love This Saskatchewan features chapter introductions by Trevor Herriot, Arthur Slade, Brad Johner, Bill Waiser, Connie Kaldor, Brenda Baker, Monique Martin, Yann Martel, Ken Mitchell, Glen Sorestad, Lloyd Ratzlaff, Dorothy Knowles, Madeleine Dahlem, and Maria Campbell. It’s encouraging to read their perspectives on how living in this province inspired them or shaped their personalities; each of their stories is unique and personal, some tender, some humorous, and some achingly melancholy. I am honoured and humbled by a chance to see this land through their eyes, to hear their voices in this story.
Saskatchewan’s geography and its people form an integral and unique piece of the Canadian mosaic. Like each province, the landscape of the Prairie is a picture of loss and creation in progress. It is influenced by both nature and man’s interaction with it and, in turn, our personalities are shaped by living and observing this interplay. My hope is that my photographs, along with the contributions of passionate Prairie writers, will inspire others to see a little deeper into what makes up this Saskatchewan we love. Love This Saskatchewan is, in its essence, a clarion call to find the beauty and wonders this humble province has to offer.
Next, check out this photographer’s once-in-a-lifetime cross-Canada trek!
John runs Light Line Photography in Saskatoon. His work can be seen and purchased at lightlinephoto.com.