In this exquisitely photographed record of the Canadian landscape, renowned photographer J.A. Kraulis captures the majesty and grandeur of a vast and staggeringly diverse country. Expansive prairies and forests, impressive coastlines, majestic inland lakes and rivers are captured in these images of the land.
This magnificent collection of over 200 photographs and captions presents Canada at its most visceral: a flash of lightning exploding across a summer sky; a sudden winter storm descending on an otherwise tranquil bay; the surface of a lake caught in a moment of stillness, mirroring the world around it -- scenes of unbridled beauty as captured by one of the country's most prolific photographers.
Canada: Images of the Land is a celebration of a country that will inspire urban dwellers and nature enthusiasts alike.
J.A. Kraulis, among Canada's most prolific and talented photographers, was raised in Montreal, where he earned degrees in science and architecture at McGill University. His work appears in magazines such as Audubon, Canadian Geographic and Equinox. He has been the principal photographer of many books, including Grand Landscapes of Canada and Canadian Landscape. Kraulis lives on the coast of British Columbia.
Roy MacGregor is a columnist at The Globe and Mail and bestselling author of nearly 40 books. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and has received numerous journalism awards, including four National Magazine Awards and eight National Newspaper Award nominations. He lives in Kanata, Ontario.
For all the accomplishments of Canada's authors, from Thomas C. Haliburton's Sam Slick tales to Alice Munro's Nobel Prize, no writer has ever been able to capture all of this extraordinary land in words.
Perhaps the alphabet is just not big enough for so large a country.
Instead, we have left the task of capturing just what this country really is to our painters and photographers -- and even here it has not been an easy task. The very painters we today credit with "discovering" the Canadian landscape in their oils, Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, were dismissed early on for using too much colour and painting with too much exaggerated flair. "Those who believe that pictures should be seen and not heard," the critic for the magazine Saturday Night wrote of a 1916 exhibition, "are likely to have their sensibilities shocked."
The snob meant it is a knock, of course, but failed to realize the truth in his statement. In fact, the very essence of the Canadian landscape is precisely that: a shock to the senses, a feeling of wonder, of sheer awe over the vastness of the land, the size of its mountains and the reach of the North. So sprawling is this land called "Canada" that there has never been a full and accurate count of its lakes, their number merely rounded off to three million or so.
When it comes to countries, size matters.
Fully embracing this huge landscape and its harsh climate was slow in coming. For much of the European settlement of this attic of North America, various governments pretended reality was something else altogether. When trying to attract immigrants from Europe at the turn of the 20th century, government officials forbade any use of the word "cold" and insisted on replacing it with the less-chilling "buoyant." Posters sent across the Atlantic to solicit settlers to the prairies showed a lightly clad nymph lifting a curtain of thick wheat to reveal a bucolic English-style countryside complete with trimmed hedgerows.
It took a while, but Canadians, both generational and brand new, eventually accepted their land for what it is, not what it isn't. The land, in fact, is the country, something first noted by the late, great Blair Fraser, then Ottawa editor of Maclean's magazine. In his centennial book, The Search for Identity, he put forward the notion that "What held such people [Canadians] together was not love for each other, but love for the land itself, the vast, empty land."
A decade or so ago, my newspaper, The Globe and Mail, launched a series of articles called "New Canada" by commissioning a survey that asked Canadians from all generations and regions what best symbolized their country. We had no idea what they would choose and anticipated a fractured response that would include such disparate ingredients as hockey, moose, maple syrup and saying "Sorry" too often. Much to our surprise, 89 percent, nearly nine out of every 10 Canadians, said that it was "the vastness of the land" that symbolized the country.
Janis Kraulis needed no such newspaper poll to tell him that. He had known since the early 1960s when he was growing up in Montreal. An older sister returned from a summer job at Lake Louise with slides she had taken during hikes around Banff National Park. Using an old projector, 14-year-old Janis viewed them on the wall of his bedroom. "That was my first experience with the power of photography," he remembers. "Mountains had been transported to my bedroom. Or I had been transported to the mountains, no distinction need be made there."
Janis himself soon went west, working four summers in British Columbia's Yoho National Park. He had studied architecture, but it was in the western mountains that he found what he wanted to do for a living: take pictures of what he saw all around him. Forty years later, J. A. Kraulis is the most-renowned landscape photographer of his generation. As Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven were to painting, Janis has been to photography. It is a comparison he denies.
"I don't regard my photos as 'art.'" Janis once wrote. "I think of them as discoveries, the fruits of exploration."
In fact, Janis is quick to give as much credit to the camera in his hand or the pilot of the single-engine plane that has taken him to such remarkable spots. He claims he has no particular "vision" apart from the literal sense of the word. The pilot takes him there, the eyes see the shot, the camera takes it. "To imagine that one is thereby creating art," he argues, "is a bit like a backhoe operator thinking that he is a champion weightlifter." In fact, he is a champion landscape photographer, as this breathtakingly beautiful book instantly proves.
"When I was a child," Janis says, "I wanted to be an African explorer when I grew up. I didn't know that there were no career openings in that field anymore, that Africa has had more than enough of colonizing explorers and that it wasn't all jungle inhabited mainly by lions and elephants. But as for the explorer part, I guess that is where I ended up."
Janis became a discoverer of great natural wonders. He vividly recalls the first time he flew in a small plane low over Niagara Falls. "I remember thinking, this must be what Father [Louis] Hennepin thought back in the 17th century when he came through the forest and first saw the falls." The effect was overwhelming, leaving one small human in awe at the power and grandeur of nature. It is a feeling he has never lost. One small human in a country too large to grasp, to paint, to photograph -- and much too large for any one person to know entirely.
Over the span of my own career in journalism, I have been fortunate to stand at Cape Spear as the sun rose on the 21st century. I have waded into the Pacific Ocean at Tofino. I have stood at the end of the runway at Alert and stared across the broken ice in search of Russia. For more than 40 years I have travelled this country -- as a reporter covering federal and provincial elections, Royal tours, northern adventures and hockey tournaments, and on canoe trips and family vacations -- so much so that some have said, though it's impossible to know for sure, that I've seen more of Canada than anyone. Yet I feel no different than David Thompson, the great mapmaker, who spent a lifetime travelling across this country by canoe, horse and foot -- and claimed, near the end, that he had seen but a small fraction of the country he had mapped.
To pass one's eyes through this remarkable and beautiful book, you would think that Janis, if anyone, had seen it all -- but he would never make any such claim. What he has done is stare endlessly in wonder, and where possible record what he has seen. His own great "discovery" -- what truly makes Janis an explorer in his own right -- was an epiphany he had early on while photographing the wide prairies and the impossibly big sky above it. "I realized," he says, "that on the ground I had in effect been looking along the surface of a painting that could only be properly appreciated from above." By photographing the land from above, he has shown us a beauty in the flat prairie unknowable while standing on it, and in so doing has especially captured my admiration for his work.
The spectacular mountain vistas and breathtaking skies are what one would expect in a book celebrating the natural beauties of this country -- and, frankly, no one does this better -- but there is also great surprise to be found here. Prairie fields such as those on pages 66-67 and 78-79 reveal designs unknowable to those who merely pass by in cars at street level or fly over them at 35,000 feet. Wetlands seen from a small low-flying aircraft, on pages 134-35, feel like Impressionist paintings by a master. But then, he is a modern master. When I look at his photograph of the swirling waters on page 93, I feel that they are a magnet drawing me into the scene. Though readers will find their own roots on other pages, the entire book, in fact, is home to all of us: Canada.
Janis believes that if he were blindfolded and taken far away and the blindfold removed, he could tell if he were still in Canada even if he had never been in that place before. There is, he argues, "a distinct 'Canadian landscape.' It's not something in the imagination -- it is as firm and real as bare bedrock."
When you think that there are 30,000 islands in Georgian Bay and that this is but a single bay of the far larger Lake Huron, you begin to grasp the scale of Canada. When you know that there are vast mountains in the far North you have likely never heard of -- the United States Range and the British Empire Range, for example -- you begin to understand why Canadian travel writer Edward McCourt would eventually conclude: "In Canada there is too much of everything. Too much rock, too much prairie, too much tundra, too much mountain, too much forest."
Many of us would disagree, but all would agree that while you can see England and tour Europe, you cannot do that here. You can experience Canada, and you can imagine Canada, and you can feel that incredible awe of Canada captured through the lens of J. A. Kraulis' camera.
In 1872, five years after Confederation, Sandford Fleming -- who would later give the world time zones -- decided to lead a grand expedition across the new country to see what had been assembled from such far-flung and profoundly different parts. The Fleming expedition went from Halifax to Victoria and calculated they covered 2,715 kilometres by steamer, 3,516 kilometres by horses, including coaches, wagons, packs and saddle-horses, nearly 1,609 kilometres by train and 780 kilometres by canoe or rowboats.
They saw nothing of the North, nothing of Newfoundland and Labrador, nothing beyond their own sight lines as the pencil mark of their journey traced across the map. But they saw enough that George M. Grant, who was assigned to keep a record of the journey, noted that the country "rolled out before us like a panorama, varied and magnificent enough to stir the dullest spirit into patriotic emotion." Such is the experience of anyone fortunate enough to begin a journey through Canada by turning these pages.
"I have never abandoned the habit of looking at photographs and dreaming," Janis says.
Nor have we. Let the dreaming begin.