Great Escape

Getting Lost in Canada

A photo essay on finding peace and family outside of the U.S.

An old car for sale on Main Street in the town of Glenwood, Alberta, Canada. All photos: John Francis Peters. Photo editing by Michelle Le.

SSouthern Alberta, Canada, is a place I never thought to go to until my stepmother moved there around six years ago. She’s a member of the Blood Tribe of the Blackfoot Confederacy, based about two hours south of Calgary. As a doctor, she moved there to open a clinic on the reservation and help her people, which had been a life goal. This was the first time I was able to see her in all those years and visit this place she now calls home.

I live in California, and politically, I’m not happy with what’s happening in the United States. I’m really not happy with the social discourse. So it felt good to get away from all the tension, at least for a bit.

You enter into the landscape as you drive south, the beautifully massive Canadian Rockies off to the west. The landscape becomes these rolling hills and prairies that continue south and east for as far as the eye can see. You’re in this amazing minimal and vast space.

For me, it’s important as a photographer to get lost sometimes in a space and see what you can produce from that experience. It’s really about getting back to my foundation in photography. Just wandering and exploring ways to visualize an environment.

It’s healthy to get away. It’s important to take time. Your own environment can turn toxic if you’re in it too long.

A woman walks into Upper Waterton Lake; Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta.

You get lost and see the type of work you produce from it.

Bottom left: Beekeeper boxes; Glenwood, Alberta. Right: Julius, Emma, and Galena jump together after a rainstorm passed through; Stand Off, Alberta.

I leave the States to take a breath and enter into a different cultural dynamic, but I’m always thinking about where I’m from. It’s a time to reflect on what’s happening back home.

What am I doing as an artist? What am I doing as a citizen of a place that is in turmoil?

A racehorse on its way to get cleaned after the rodeo; Stand Off, Alberta.

I was looking for subtle things in the landscape. How do cows look in that space?

Spectators watch rodeo bull rides during the Kainai Pow Wow and Celebration; Stand Off, Alberta.
A farmer’s field marker; Glenwood, Alberta.
A horse runs after sunrise; Levern, Alberta.

John Francis Peters is a photographer currently based in Southern California. His work focuses on documentary, art and editorial subjects.

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