The yellow door of Agassiz Produce is just one of the backdrops photographer Tim Van Horn has used in his Mosaic Project.

Traveling photographer focuses on faces

Mosaic of 36,000 portraits has become Van Horn's ‘tour of duty’

Tim Van Horn is four years into a self-imposed ‘tour of duty.’

But the only shooting he’ll be doing is through the lens of his camera, as he crosses the country to capture 36,000 images. He is focusing in on the faces that comprise Canada, shooting each of his subjects as a simple portrait. Once those are collected, his plan is to compile them all into a massive mosaic.

Van Horn set out on this goal in October 2008, and expects to finish before 2017. That will be just in time for Canada’s sesquicentennial — our country’s 150th birthday.

“This is our birthday, and it’s an opportunity to examine life here in Canada,” he said. “This is a pure look at what we have.”

Van Horn’s travels led him to Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs in early January, where he did what he always does. He waited on the sidewalk, and asked every single person he saw whether he could take their portrait.

“I ask every single person who walks by,” he said.

While most people oblige, his request isn’t always met with smiles. But he doesn’t take the negative responses personally.

“The responses are a direct effect of who they are and what is going on in their lives,” he said.

But things went well at chosen backdrops in Agassiz, at the Agassiz Produce’s yellow door and at the Liquor Store wall. Van Horn captured 10 portraits, and then stopped in at The Observer before heading out to find a location in Harrison Hot Springs.

He has been carrying out the Mosaic Project without a sponsor, sleeping in his photograph-splashed van alongside his companions — two dogs. Much of his day is spent cataloging the photographs he’s taken, blogging about the project, and discovering the communities he’s visited.

While the end goal is to create a mosaic through photographs, the project isn’t just about art, Van Horn said. It’s about uniting Canada, “and to create something authentic that everyone can be a part of.”

Van Horn grew up in a military family, and as such, is somewhat used to moving around. But he’s chosen this project as his “creative tour of duty.”

In the process of creating the larger mosaic, Van Horn has also created smaller ones along the way. But the goal of 36,000 has significance. Together, those portraits will represent a solid one per cent of the population.

“My vision has always been to create innovative visuals that pay homage to the beauty and wonderment of life itself,” Van Horn writes on his blog.

“The fact that Canada is such a culturally diverse and beautiful place inspires me, and I see myself as a foot soldier on his tour of duty for humanity, listening to and studying life in everything and everyone around me.

“I am armed with a camera in one hand and grand vision in the other; a vision to illustrate and educate others by depicting our humanity and cultural identity.”

To learn more about Van Horn’s Mosaic Project,  or to search for a portrait he took of you, visit

And remember, as Van Horn says on his website, you never know who you’ll meet on the sidewalk of life.

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