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Saskatchewan

Uncommon Views

photographs by John Conway
by Sharon Butala; David Carpenter & Helen Marzolf

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list price: $29.95
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
category: Photography
published: 2005
ISBN:9780888644541
Awards
  • , AAUP Book, Jacket & Journal Show - AAUP 2005 Book, Jacket & Journal Show, Jackets & Covers
  • , The Alcuin Society Citations for Excellence in Book Design in Canada - 2nd, Pictorial
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Description

Decidedly quirky in their vision yet punctuated with breath-taking beauty these photographs rejoice in a Saskatchewan landscape known only to insiders. From brash to subtle, John Conway's keen eye for unusual detail, colour, and irony celebrates an unsung landscape with warm affection and brilliant light. With essays by Sharon Butala, David Carpenter, and Helen Marzolf, this fine blending of text and image will both surprise and invite wonder on the occasion of Saskatchewan's centennial. "John Conway's photos, startlingly original in their view of this province, have captured exactly what strangers have failed to see." Sharon Butala "These images speak eloquently to me of the hopes of people like my grandparents, hopes dashed and tattered and rising once again, upbeat and sassy." David Carpenter

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Editorial Reviews

"Quirky like only Saskatchewan can be, it's more than just a pretty coffee table picture book." Tracy Doell, Planet S, November 24 2005


"[T]he University of Alberta Press has published John Conway's amazing collection of photographs, Saskatchewan: Uncommon Views. The fruit of 12 years of photographing the province's changing countryside, the collection is an unlikely centennial gift that grapples with the tensions between the provinces' collective imagination and the testament of the land. Conway's photographs are driven by questions: there is beauty here, yes, but it is not a pretty postcard in itself; rather, the beauty is a crowbar used to pry open our habitual way of seeing-the way we edit and ignore much of what we see around us. The result is a book that is soul-searching, ironic, invigorating, depressing, demystifying, and yet, in the end, that celebrates the enduring power of the place and the transformative potential of dreams..Throughout, Conway records the land's exquisite, subtle range of texture, as well as the centrality of the sky where the drama of light and clouds plays out. He captures, as few others have, the gorgeous clarity of winter light on the prairies-the pinkish-white light at the horizon dissipating to powdery cobalt-a light that moves me in ways that exceed mountains or seascapes." Christopher Wiebe, VUE Weekly, December 15, 2005


"Don't be surprised if you find yourself chuckling as you turn the pages of Conway's Saskatchewan: Uncommon Views. His portrayal of the rural part of the province is both humourous and artistic....Conway's love for the province shows in each image. He makes an ordinary field of canola look like a shimmering golf course, and a pile of gravel in Eagle Creek a starkly beautiful landscape. An uncommonly moving portrait." The Globe and Mail, December 10, 2005


"An algae bloom on a sewage lagoon, a sign identifying 'greenleaf pubescent wheatgrass,' a golf course coloured entirely in shades of brown: the beauty in photographer John Conway's images of Saskatchewan is indisputable, but it's delivered with a hipster's taste for sly, intelligent humour and, yes, irony. If the Coen brothers had shot Who Has Seen the Wind, it would have looked something like this." Stanley Brunst, Western Living Magazine, September 2005


"Images of Saskatchewan invariably include sweeping grain fields and skies that go on forever, but Saskatoon photographer John Conway captures a side of the province not often seen in photographs. The result is a unique, unflinchingly intimate, look at the prairie landscape in Conway's first book Saskatchewan: Uncommon Views." Jennifer Jacoby-Smith, Star Phoenix, October 1, 2005


"Saskatchewan: Uncommon Views is a fine piece of work. Even though ostensibly cast in a supporting role, the accompanying essays are all well worth reading in their own right. The photographs are an extended set of variations on a theme of how to photograph prairie, while in their content, they succeed admirably in presenting a contemporary, ironic, humorous, semiotic tour of a people's conflicted relationship with an always contrary, yet often starkly beautiful land." Richard Holden, Border Crossings, August 2006.


"One of the raw photographs in John Conway's Saskatchewan: Uncommon Views is of a battered old feed grinder in a ditch along Highway 11 near Bethune. A fading '4-sale' sign is propped against the rusting machine overgrown in weeds. The relic--the result of someone's success, but more likely another's failure--is set against the uncertainty of brooding autumn clouds and an unfinished harvest. It's a piercing metaphor of what has forever been the reality of Saskatchewan. She's hard on the folks who live there. She blows nasty cold and sometimes so hot and dry that grasshoppers turn the roads to grease. There are twisters. It hails. Frosts come early. Winter stays late. The summers are glorious but short. When it rains, it's not enough or it's too much. She keeps her citizens guessing. Keeps them hopeful. You can work like a dog and still need lots of luck to make a go. It's a tough love that makes good people.... Conway's Uncommon Views is a favourite as it strikes so many familiar chords--places off even secondary highways, along dirt roads where the granaries, rock piles and rusty machinery are like little landmarks on your soul. He shot a big roadside sign along the Yellowhead Highway, in an empty lot in the Rural Municipality of Great Bent that read 'Future Home of Something.' The sign is gone. The empty lot --and the optimism--is still there. From the sodbusters until now, Saskatchewan has always been a 'next year' kind of place. It's a province that grapples with retaining its people while transforming from an economy where wheat was king to more diversified businesses. Change to the social is inevitable." Darron Kloster, The Victoria Times, Dec 4, 2005


"Saskatchewan: Uncommon Views is a collection of 62 remarkable photographs by John Conway. The images are accompanied by four engaging essays. Conway himself contributes one of the essays, while Helen Marzolf provides a curatorial perspective on Conway's art. David Carpenter and Sharon Butala, two of Saskatchewan's finest authors, offer some well-considered insights into the place and its people. The images are not just finely composed photographs or conventionally beautiful landscapes. In almost every image, the beauty derives from an intriguing-sometimes almost imperceptible-human impact on the physical world. Arguably, the most conventionally beautiful image is a sewage lagoon at Waskesiu." Michael Payne, Canadian Book Review Annual 2007


Saskatchewan was named #13 in the Top 20 Saskatchewan Books for 2005 by McNally Robinson.


"Saskatchewan: Uncommon Views is a stunning, full-color photographic gallery of Saskatchewan's countryside. Only the barest minimum of commentary supplements this collection of stunning images of grasses, open parklands, crop fields, prairie, snowfields, hills and more. A truly beautiful collection that instills a great appreciation for the wide open spaces of nature in the reader. Award-winning photographer John Conway proves his exquisite gift in this superb compilation particularly for those who appreciate the majesty of landscape photography." The Internet Bookwatch, Mar, 2006.


"Professor Conway has traveled the dirt backroads of his province and come up with a mouth watering collection of well chosen photographs. The essayists have brilliantly written the prose descriptions of the almost indescribably beautiful landscapes. " Ron MacIsaac, Island NEWS, June 14, 2006.


"We've all seen these places, but Conway gives them a weird iconic quality that is quite irresistible. Sure it's Saskatchewan, but it's cool. Text is spare but pithy, with two exceptional essays by Sharon Butala and David Carpenter." Margo Goodhand, the Winnipeg Free Press, Dec 18, 2005


"John Conway's 'uncommon views' of post-pastoral Saskatchewan are like the long, unsmiling pause following the punch line of a bleak joke: a telephone pole striped with discarded license plates, a derelict windmill, sterile rows of plastic-wrapped hay bales, each exquisitely framed against an endless expanse of prairie and sky. 'In Saskatchewan,' writes David Carpenter, 'optimism is a guarded hope.'" Paula Gustafson, Galleries West, Spring 2006.


"Conway tells a story that is both sad and funny, finding what is at the heart of a lot of Saskatchewan storiesĀ¬-quirky stories that are defined by the land, but shaped by the people.... [Conway's] photographs show both sides of the spectrum. They show the optimism and the sadness." John Shelling, The Sheaf, March 23, 2006.


"The results of John Conway's photographic forays across Saskatchewan are certainly 'uncommon'. Sometimes strikingly beautiful, always minimalist, his photographs elicit reflection, nostalgia, even humour. While this is not a book on natural history, it will appeal to many readers, especially to serious practitioners of photography and to residents of Saskatchewan steeped in its history and geography. In addition to the photos, the book contains three thoughtful essays by well-known Saskatchewan writers: Sharon Butala, Helen Marzolf and David Carpenter. [Conway's] photos suggest a variety of reactions to a land that can be both inviting and cruel. A handsome book, reasonably priced, Saskatchewan Uncommon Views is a significant achievement, particularly fitting since it appeared in the province's centennial year." J. Frank Roy, The Canadian Field-Naturalist, Vol.119, Iss.4, 2005

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Out of print

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About the Authors

John Conway

John Conway is a long-time Saskatchewan photographer. In 2004, photographs from Saskatchewan: Uncommon Views were awarded two major prizes at the International Photography Awards.
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Sharon Butala

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David Carpenter

David Carpenter, a former university teacher, is a fiction writer and essayist. Courting Saskatchewan, won the Saskatchewan Book Award for nonfiction in 1997. In 2000 he published his first book of poetry, Trout Stream Creed.
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Helen Marzolf

Helen Marzolf, a former curator at two Saskatchewan art galleries, now works in Victoria, BC.
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