Photo Essay: The Canadian

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by Jeff Friesen

© Jeff Friesen

© Jeff Friesen

There’s plenty of magic left to find in a country big enough to hide mountain ranges. Considering Canada is 8000 kilometres (5000 miles) wide, it’s remarkable how many people set out to cross the country from sea to sea. With so much ground to pass beneath you, this is one pilgrimage where the journey really is the destination. Whether by car or bicycle, train or canoe, travellers form their own river running across the landscape.

Not too long ago I saw a man pushing a shopping cart down the highway in one of Saskatchewan’s lonelier spaces. A small Canadian flag waved out from the bundle in the cart. Sure enough, I saw the same man, longer in the beard, pushing his cart on the outskirts of Winnipeg three weeks later. What he is discovering we can only dream.

It’s hard to make sense of living in a big country. Maybe that’s where the sea-to-sea travel urge comes from. I remember eating lunch in an Acadian village on New Brunswick’s coast. The restaurant’s other patrons were lobstermen eating rappie pie and discussing the weather in French. The village and its harbour formed a completely self-contained little world, yet these people actually share something in common with, say, a software engineer having noodles for breakfast four time zones away in the mini-Hong Kong that is Richmond, B.C. How does one flag wrap around all of this?

My own cross-country exploration is done by taking the train, but not in the usual sense…I carry the train. It fits into a shopping bag from Mountain Equipment Co-Op.

The train is just two inches tall, and it’s a ghost from another age. This is the vintage 1955 streamliner that was first named “The Canadian.” Unfortunately, you won’t find scheduled service for this scenic dome route, though you may see evidence of its passing. For all of you who have come across me working on this project and offered many kind words, I hope you enjoy the finished photographs. Click here to view the complete photo essay.

Jeff Friesen is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His photography has gathered worldwide recognition including an Award Of Excellence from Communication Arts. His work has been exhibited in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Japan. His images have appeared in publications including Photo Life, American Photo, Popular Photography, Photo District News, Canadian Geographic and National Geographic Adventure.

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