Saskatchewan: Uncommon Views.
Photographs by John Conway.
The University of Alberta Press, Edmonton, Alberta, 2005. 156 pp., various color illustrations, 11x10″.
In this, Conway’s first monograph, we are offered a glimpse of his pensive visual ramblings throughout the vast rural terrain of Canada’s Saskatchewan province over the past twelve years. He has captured in a fairly straight-forward approach to landscape photography the wonderfully muted color palette of prairie lands in winter light, and does so with a subtle sense of humor (or should I say humour?). Conway’s expanses are devoid of people, save a makeshift scarecrow wearing its winter jacket or Conway’s shadow purposefully entering into the image. There is indeed a presence of habitation, though, in most of the photographs—a sign for Shirl’s Upholstery, wrapped canola crops looking otherworldly, or the quirky yellow trailer belonging to the Department of Highways. Yet there is a profound quietness in all of them. Conway loves this land. This love comes through not only in the images but in his anecdotes and quoted material, highlighting Saskatchewan’s heritage, history and hardships. The essay by Helen Marzolf is of note, but in general the texts provide history and personal viewpoints that welcome us into a very proud community. Rather than “uncommon views” one might consider these scapes “overlooked views.” This book comes at an opportune time in Canadian history. In 1905 Saskatchewan became a province and just last year celebrated its centennial. – Larissa Leclair
Originally published in the Photo-eye Booklist, Summer 2006.