Since Walker Evans’s seminal 1938 MoMA exhibition American Photographs, the road trip has become a prominent genre of 20th century North American documentary photography. Breaking with the tradition of solitude and endless possibilities represented by the open road, Nam Phi Dang, a first-generation Vietnamese-Canadian photographer, and The Globe and Mail journalist Ian Brown, traveled on a bus tour with a group of tourists from Toronto to Prince Edward Island and back. They were only allowed off the vehicle on strictly regulated stops.
Dang’s photographs, a mix of banal snapshots, beautifully composed landscapes and portraits of tourists, show Canada through the perspective of travelers, many experiencing the country for the first time. As Brown writes, “[they] take advantage of every moment in ways we who live here sometimes don’t.” Initially, the images illuminate clichés and stereotypes around how we define ourselves as a nation. Upon further reflection, the collection reveals what others see, providing a metaphor for a Canada that is fluid and evolving, with a national identity that is interpreted and reinterpreted time and time again.
Nam Phi Dang
Nam Phi Dang is a Toronto based photographer whose work has appeared in several Canadian publications and has been exhibited at the Art Gallery of Mississauga. He was commissioned by The Globe and Mail, a newspaper founded in 1844, for this photo essay. Each day, The Globe leads the national discussion by engaging Canadians through its award-winning coverage of news, politics, business, investing and lifestyle topics, across multiple platforms.