Photographs by George Webber
About the Book
An evocative collection of contemporary photography that shines a light on the charm and disintegration of small towns in Saskatchewan.
Captured over 30 years, the 200 images in this finely wrought exhibition document prairie landscapes and rural structures like no other in recent memory. With skill, sensitivity, and a renowned eye for detail, documentary photographer George Webber once again transports the viewer with his lens across time, geography, and history.
Bright colours, sun-baked facades, endless horizons, and straight edges are all beautifully haunted by the shadow of time’s inevitable decay and nature’s slow embrace of abandoned human settlements. The varying shades of prairie-blue skies can hum with optimistic vibrancy, while fists of cloud can march toward an unknowable front.
Saskatchewan Book shows us that small prairie towns remain beacons of affection and bastions of memory, all the while succumbing to the enigmatic fate that eventually enfolds all living things.
“What’s amazing about these photographs is how much narrative and emotion are contained in
the sparsest, most stripped-down of the found remnants of men and women who are not on site.
The pictures do the work of poems and one of the briefest of poems at that, the haiku.” -Lorna Crozier, author of The Book of Marvels and Small Beneath the Sky
“Like the photographers who inspire Saskatchewan Book, George Webber demonstrates a keen eye for detail and a meticulous visual approach to this taxonomical index of places that call him to make photographs. For over thirty years Saskatchewan has rewarded Webber’s incisive gaze. In these renderings made in the present he calls forth the past. Webber patiently exhorts us to look closely and consider the signs, literal and metaphorical, of cultural heritage – the past that has brought forth the present. Under deep blue skies, Webber is palpably present in the landscape. Drawn to main streets and back roads, he tenderly portrays what he has studiously observed. ‘Eyes Tested,’ whispers a brick wall in Swift Current, 2014. Indeed. Hearts too.” —Dona Schwartz, PhD, professor of art, University of Calgary
“I was struck by several things: how ‘square-on’ these pictures mostly are – this isn’t a photographer who likes odd angles or strange points of view – how vibrantly colourful they are while carefully and repeatedly documenting the remnants of a past seen in old machinery, old signs, decrepit buildings. This latter, even while the towns around them are alive and reasonably well across the street or around the corner. I kept thinking I knew the town, even the place where a picture was shot, only to find it was shot in a village on the other side of the province. The ubiquity, the commonplaceness of these images that I kept confusing by location, tells its own story. Eventually I began to think that this photographer is making pictures of more abstract qualities: angles, lines, textures and their juxtapositions, more than he is documenting a story about Saskatchewan towns. This is beautiful work, striking, powerful and satisfying even while masterfully elegiac.” —Sharon Butala, novelist, essayist, poet and playwright, including a Governor General’s Award nomination for Where I Live Now (2017) and a new short-story collection, Season of Fury and Wonder
“In the prairies of Canada documentary photographer George Webber has found the place that nourishes his soul. This is where he wants to be, where he must be, to create his art. His Saskatchewan Book quietly, powerfully discloses the nooks and crannies, the ghosts and icons, the energy and quirkiness that live on in this sparse and understated province of the plains.” —Charlene Dobmeier, prairie publisher
“George Webber is the master of the ‘what the hell is going on here?’ photograph. You might not understand his purpose at first glance, but that sudden insight, that ‘now I get it!’moment of understanding when you recognize what he’s doing with the picture, is uniquely exciting and satisfying.” —David Scollard, publisher and co-founder, with Rose Scollard, of Frontenac House
“Yet another wonderful, thought-provoking book from my favourite contemporary prairie photographer. George Webber captures the wistful essence of rural and small-city Saskatchewan – the skies, the empty streets, the faded and damaged signs and billboards (many hand-painted or hand-lettered), the aged and distressed buildings, and the buildings whose end time has finally arrived. Most of the images make it clear that better days are well behind them, but they also bear testament to Saskatchewanians’ need to quietly honour the fleeting evidence of their existence for as long as possible. The photographs, the feeling, the message are markedly subtle, so one needs to view this assemblage many times to truly enter into and understand this world.” —Brock Silversides, director of University of Toronto Libraries Media Commons (and proud ex-Saskatchewanian)
“An evocation and a piece of time travel is behind George Webber’s photographic meditation on the small centres, towns and villages of Saskatchewan. Back to an earlier day when colonial settlement and the railway made it possible for what is now apparently impossible. These pristine pictures feature the artifacts of that earlier time: lonesome signs and derelict vehicles; modest one- and two-storey buildings – which said so much about the character of this prairie place. Accompanied with Lorna Crozier’s perceptive observations about her home province, Saskatchewan Book bears witness to a powerful Canadian memory.” —Mary-Beth Laviolette, art writer and curator, author of A Delicate Art and An Alberta Art Chronicle, and co-author, with Patricia Ainslie, of Alberta Art & Artists: A Survey.
“Award-winning Calgary photographer George Webber’s stunning Saskatchewan Book is a visual treat. Instead of exploring the often-captured landscape of the prairie province, Webber trains his eye and camera on what might be termed its ‘artifactscape’: a panoply of empty roads, abandoned buildings, long out-of-date calendars, weather-beaten billboards and other advertising signs that vividly evoke small-town Saskatchewan life fixed in an earlier time. Devoid of human faces, the photos nevertheless tell an eloquent tale of human habitation.” —Dave Margoshes, Saskatchewan fiction writer and poet
“George Webber’s latest publication, Saskatchewan Book, is abundant in time, place and memory. In Webber’s hands, photography’s cherished facility to capture and fold the tenses – past, present and future – into a singular moment is palpable. This masterfully executed and composed collection of images is rife with the residue of a vanishing world, a rural vernacular that is remembered but no longer spoken, and of lives filled with earnest labour that have moved elsewhere. From weathered marquees to long abandoned shops in towns slipping into obscurity, one cannot help but feel nostalgia for a past that speaks volumes about an uncertain future.” —Ryan Doherty, chief curator, Contemporary Calgary
“From the haunted windows of schoolhouses to the optimism of eternal gravel roads, George Webber’s photographs chronicle the marrow of Saskatchewan’s endurance. From shelterbelts to battered signs, these images semaphore the patterns of yearning light that hover over this beautiful province in a gloriously weather-beaten celebration.” —Aritha van Herk, novelist, essayist, cultural commentator, editor and university professor