In response to Canada 150, a documentary photographer from Montreal is making his way across Canada from one coast to the other on a motorcycle, inviting 150 Canadians to share, through a photograph, what represents their culture or identity.
Jimmy Ung, 33, started his journey in Iqaluit, Nunavut in June and since then, has made his way back to Montreal, crossed New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, before arriving last week in Halifax.
Ung said he wants people to tell their own story.
“The idea is basically to show how, through the vastness of this country, the diversity that coexists and that lives together through Canada,” Ung told Global News.
“But also giving the voice to individuals so that they can kind of share their reflection on what it means to be Canadian in 2017.”
In selecting the 150 participants, Ung said it was a semi-structured process. He wanted to ensure the people chosen had gender parity, that there was indigenous representation and cultural diversity, so he developed certain criteria for selecting people per province and territory.
Actually getting the people was through “word of mouth,” by communicating with various organizations in the cities and sometimes even showing up to their offices, like when he stopped by the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre while in Halifax to explain the project and ask who he could speak with.
He then meets with the person in a place that means something to them.
Ten people are being documented by Ung in each province in territory, amounting to 130 people when he’s finished, while the other 20 people will be national figures that have yet to be determined.
“It’s been amazing how just sending an email to some people who you would think may not be accessible and they end up replying and accepting to meet with you,” he said.
When he does work with those taking part in his project, Ung said he’s not the one behind the camera — he gives the camera to the person.
By giving the camera to the person, he said they take the photos they want and once they’ve been taken, the person chooses what photograph they want to represent them. He then does an interview with the person to understand why they’ve chosen that photo, and then he takes a photo of them himself.
“We can have that match together and it also means, by the time I take their photo, we’ve spent quite some time together, we’ve talked about their story.
“It’s much easier to get a natural smile because we have a bit of a natural connection at that point,” Ung said.
The journey isn’t Ung’s first, having driven from Montreal to the tip of Argentina in 2014-15. While there, he conducted 150 interviews in the same fashion, this time getting to know people in the communities before selecting some for the project.
He said he wanted to focus on the “goodness” of people and give individuals a chance to share their stories and in turn, learn from them about their culture.
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Since the first project, he released a book of the 150 photos from his trip called Americano, created photo exhibits, participated in a global conference about living together, and has given presentations in high schools about intercultural dialogue through photography.
Ung’s trip is in part being paid for by CanAm Books, which committed to pay for fuel for this trip. The remainder of costs is being paid for through crowdfunding, with a GoFundMe account already having raised $5,000 over the past two months. What isn’t covered by that is going on his credit card.
“I really believe that by delivering a project that’s meaningful and engaging, I believe that people who will enjoy it, will support it with a little $20 here and that’s how I’m planning,” Ung said.
“I consider it a very humbling experience to meet with all these people.”
The end goal of the project is to create an online platform which he hopes will also be an educational resource for students, teachers and people across Canada.
“People can read through these stories wherever they are and teachers can also refer to students so they can travel across Canada without necessarily having to see where they are and explore through their perspective of other people… and if they recognize themselves in them,” he said.
The last stop is in British Columbia and Ung said he’s hoping to end there 150 days after he started his journey.
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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