The Symbol of Canada
With Canada celebrating its sesquicentennial this year, that’s 150 years old, I thought I should do something special. I’ve heard many stories of what it means to be Canadian, each varied but with commonalities woven deep into the fabric of it all. But it got me thinking, if I could pick one thing that represents Canada what would that be? Historically, perhaps a beaver, a canoe, or even an inukshuk or going a little more modern, maybe a hockey puck.
For the last 50 years, the single, most recognizable symbol of Canada has been right there for all to see, sewn into backpacks, tattooed over hearts, raised proudly in every school and government building, cottages, and sporadic dappling of houses too. I’m referring of course not just to the Canadian Flag, but what is the at the heart of the flag, the red maple leaf—a symbol of peace, hope, freedom and opportunity, of equality for all, free of gender, religion, and race-based discrimination, of a country that celebrates diversity, not assimilation. The maple leaf is more than a symbol of Canada, it represents who we are and a metaphor for our identity.
Inspired by a Single Maple Leaf
So last Fall, when my daughter found this Maple Leaf that appeared to be glowing, I decided to take it a step further and create some collages using multiple maple leaves, as a sort of birthday present for this great country of ours.
This was truly a family affair. I drove around with my girls to find some red maple leaves. Then when we had enough, and at this point I would love to say we had a symbolic number like 150 but it was much lower, we brought them into the studio and started the magic.
We Are All Connected
The first one we made was quite simple. We used the glowing red maple leaf that my daughter found that started the whole thing, and put that in the centre. Then we used 13 red maple leaves to form a circle around the leaf at the centre. Each red maple leaf represents a province or territory of Canada.
Every province and territory is connected, geographically, in identity, and in its own uniqueness. In the same way, each Maple Leaf is unique, comprised of many different colours, an intricate web of veins with each one contributing to the health and vitality of the tree and to show off its spectacular brilliance in the process. Sure, there are proud areas and rivalries abound, and some leaves are better or prettier than others, but in the end, they are all Canada and they are all connected to make Canada what it is today.
After that, we made a Canadian Flag. Again using the large Maple Leaf as the main leaf, and the others as the red border on either side of the leaf.
The last one we made was a map of Canada using the maple leaves. This time, I relied on my wife’s expertise as she put it together, and I photographed it.
Behind the Scene
Here’s a view of the set up I used for all these pictures. I used one strobe with a rectangular soft box pointing up. This doubled as the work space for the leaves. I didn’t just want back lighting, so I added another strobe to give a little light to the top. The camera and tripod are directly above the soft box, shooting down. Simple and effective.
Canada—One Big Happy Family
So this project, in honour of Canada’s 150th, started with a single, red maple leaf found lying in the grass in the peak of autumn and grew into something more, something good, something better than we could have dreamed, with everyone in the family contributing and making the vision come to fruition. Kind of sounds like Canada.
So when someone asks me what it means to be Canadian, I say, “It’s like a maple leaf…”
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