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Don Mills (Ont.), Collins, c1984. 221pp, cloth, $39.95, ISBN 040217380-8. CIP

Grades 8 and up
Reviewed by Robin Lewis

Volume 13 Number 4
1985 July

The "DITLOCA" project was to produce a book, a television documentary, a calendar, and a travelling photographic exhibit. About forty of the one hundred photographers were Canadian, so that the team would have the advantage of both experience and "fresh eyes." Few French-Canadians were commissioned, possibly because Smolan is American, possibly because he drew staff from two previous, similar work teams. Not all participants had their work selected and many fine photographers were not on the teams to begin with.

Photographers were sent by random choice to chosen locations with specific mandates, yet each was also free to photograph at will. The editors wanted "extraordinary photographs of ordinary events." The work was to be a photo-journalistic time capsule, preserving the body and spirit of one specific day for future generations.

The pictures are arranged chronologically from 6:30 am. Each photograph has a ' caption, credit, and time. The locales are shown on small marginal outline maps. Photograph size varies from 3x5 inches to 14 x 20 inches. Some are in thematic sequence, and some form miniature photo-essays, on the Mennonites, for example. There is high quality professional work, as well as snapshots taken by one hundred children using Kodak disc cameras.

Each idea in the project seems like fun, yet put together it is quite gimmicky. The work was edited in a great hurry, and to some extent lacks the coherence one might find with a single author, or a less ambitious goal. One might question the pardonable tendency to choose so many soft pastoral scenes when eighty percent of Canadians are urbanites. None the less, the book contains some magnificent pictures.

An old hand and his apprentice pouring gold in the mint is fascinating. The traditional tools, the ornate window, and the brown monochrome reproduce the softness and dignity of an old leather Bible. Eric Hayes's wide-angle lens looks up through a set of monkey bars, and shows joyful children festooning the iron, like colourful blossoms on a tree. Robin Moyer shows a calf being branded, tongue out and eyes bulging in fear. Douglas Kirkland has produced a dramatic picture of elegant fashion models. Ken Kerr's shot of an abandoned air base is similar to a Bruce Littlejohn picture which has stronger colours and firmer lines. But perhaps Kerr saw the link between the green building and the grass, the abandonment and the weeds. Possibly the dandelions date his photograph and truly document a season, a "Day in the Life of Canada", as the editors had wished.

Whatever one's personal opinion of the overall success of the book, one will find much that is intriguing and beautiful. To judge if the editor has fulfilled his mandate, bring the book to me in forty years. If we are still lucid, and not too blind, we will then be able to judge objectively if the collection truly portrays Canada as it was in 1984.

Robin Lewis, Riverdale H.S., Pierrefonds, Que.
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