Christopher Plummer, Rick Mercer, William Shatner, Peter Appleyard.
Though most might not realize it, all of these notable figures hail from Canada, and now all of these icons are immortalized in the Canadian Icon Project by photographer Don Dixon.
“This project is about shining a light on those people who are making a difference in our world and around the world and giving them a voice and platform, so more Canadians can understand what it is we need to be preparing ourselves for and fostering our country towards as the future unfolds in front of us,” said Dixon.
The project was prompted by a conversation Dixon had with his American sister-in-law who did not know that William Shatner and Christopher Plummer were both Canadian. Much to Dixon’s surprise, when he returned home from the U.S., many Canadians did not know either.
“I decided at that point that I was going to take pictures of our iconic Canadians and put up a photo exhibit,” said the photographer.
Dixon’s been working on the project for six years now and has photographed more than 118 Canadians icons, from the fields of science, technology, politics, art and more.
While working on the project, he met Peter Appleyard, a jazz vibraphonist, who shared with Dixon a story about once having the chance to play with Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.
“I thought oh man this is an incredible story,” recalled Dixon, who decided to record his story in an interview.
Sadly, Appleyard passed away before Dixon had the chance.
“From that point forward I always had a crew with me when I was doing the photograph portraits,” stated Dixon.
This crew helps Dixon to capture each icons story in an interview. So far, he’s interviewed 70 icons.
The artist is hoping to capture 150 icons in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary next year. He’s garnered interest from companies like Air Canada, who wants to feature the exhibit in cities like Hong Kong and London; Cineplex who wants to show the videos before feature films across Canada; and En Route magazine, who hopes to feature interviews with the icons.
“We’ve got a solid following. The thing we don’t have is the funding to produce the work,” lamented Dixon.
So far, all the work has been self-funded, and his crew volunteers their time. He is looking for corporations to support his project.
Out of the 118 icons, Dixon has also featured a few notable figures from the Canadian Armed Forces including retired LGen. Romeo Dallaire and retired Master Cpl. Paul Franklin.
Franklin, now an advocate for disabled veterans after being injured in Afghanistan, has attracted a great deal of attention.
“Out of the people we’ve featured on our Facebook page, he’s one of the ones that’s gotten the most attention and been retweeted more than anybody else, and it’s within the military community as well. The Canadian Icons project has really become a conduit for the Canadian military to have a conversation as well,” noted Dixon.
Dixon has a military connection himself as the son of a Royal Canadian Air Force flight sergeant. Dixon grew up on many military bases across Canada, even spending several years in France.
His time in France and going to the Department of National Defence schools helped to ingrain the love of Canada in him.
“We used to have to sing ‘Oh Canada’ and ‘God Save the Queen’ every morning and our teachers always reminded us that we were Canadians, and we were in a foreign country, and we were representing our country, so we always had to be respectful of where we were,” remembered Dixon.
Dixon hopes that the project will help Canadians, young and old, recognize the leaders of the country.
“We need to understand who our leaders are, and their particular areas of expertise and we have to listen to them and help them guide us to the future,” noted Dixon.
He also hopes that the Canadian Icons Project doesn’t end with him and continues to evolve through the generations.
“We always have new, outstanding Canadians that are guiding the way to the future. This project has really become a grassroots mentoring initiative,” said Dixon.
Check out the website for more information: http://www.canadianiconsproject.com