Harris Taylor’s Agawa Canyon

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Harris Taylor, Director

Director Statement: As I grew up in the Algoma region of Northern Ontario, I developed a strong connection to the land. I continued to explore that connection as a writer and television producer in Yukon, the Eastern Arctic and British Columbia. The creation of Agawa Canyon was a great professional development opportunity to move from analogue video to the art of digital storytelling.

This story is very personal to me as it speaks to my heritage, the land I grew up on, and the need to fight for what is important. I’ve known Lorna both professionally and in the community for the last 30 years and it’s been such a pleasure to collaborate with her on this project. I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to watch and reflect on Agawa Canyon.

Collaborator Statement: Agawa Canyon is the first digital story created using Lorna Boschman’s new digital storytelling technique. This technique draws on numerous similar methods adopted by artists who work with community members. Foremost influences are Challenge for Change (National Film Board of Canada program) and StoryCenter.org who have been making digital stories for decades, informed by Joe Lambert’s Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives/Creating Community. In the Vancouver area, visual artist/writer Persimmon Blackbridge collaborated with me on many videos about her work, chronicling the lives of people who have lived and worked in institutions. I mentored participants who created digital stories for the Cancer’s Margins study, including Verna Stefan’s just being.

When Harris asked me to show her how digital production worked, I invited her to collaborate in telling a digital story. Harris heard the story when she was young and has been thinking about it ever since. To help develop her ideas, I kept asking for her story as she revised it. As her script developed and her story was refined, she realized that her sisters and other family members had a collection of historic photos that she was able to incorporate into the project. And before the story was published, Harris was sharing it with people who want to bring back the former Algoma Central Railway. Who’s going to Canyon?

13 thoughts on “Harris Taylor’s Agawa Canyon”

  1. I love the way this story unfolds. I was previously unaware of the connection between Agawa Canyon, Paddy, the Group of Seven and Harris’ family. In my travels at home and abroad I have discovered how Landscape has become the primary icon of Canada. This digital story shows a piece of how that has come to be.

  2. A beautiful little video, which depicts a place I would love to visit… especially if I could go with Harris, back in time. The group of seven paintings (new ones to me) leap off the screen to bring the landscape alive.

  3. Great video! Your mom looked so happy in those photos. How wonderful that she and you went “up the canyon” one last time together and you recorded her memories of the place.


  4. Awesome collecting and keeping of family artifacts, Harris Taylor! What a wonderful tribute to your mother and what a great story to be able to share. As I work directly with Group of Seven paintings at Canadian Fine Arts in Toronto, it brings me great pleasure to see Story and image brought together in this way. What a boon for the Canadian History Archives…a perfect blending of where we have come from with the here and now.

  5. Harris Taylor

    Friends who have looked at Agawa Canyon have shared these comments:

    “You must be so delighted with the final product. I know that I am. I can really see the fine polishing that you have done and just feel so connected – to you and your mom through this. Thank you for doing it!!! I love the flow, the use of the Group images, the stories and Paddy!!! and your parents. I am thrilled. Thank you for sending this to me – and for making this wonder gem.” Jean Hershey

    “This short brought tears to my eyes. The simplicity of its integrity and love pours over the viewer. You have brought nature, culture and family together in a cornucopia of a Canadian treasure. Nice work Harris. Thank you for sharing with me.” Darlene Brooks

    “What a lovely piece! And the footage of your folks – wow! I can see you in your mother … beautiful Footage. Love the sound track too. Thank you for sharing with us!” Amy Newman

    “What a wonderful story! I hadn’t realized that the Canyon played such a special role in your lives! I really enjoyed the photos and videos!
    I love going there but haven’t been for years! Wouldn’t it be fun to go up together sometime?! It would be wonderful to have passenger service to the Sault. We don’t understand why there aren’t more passenger trains being used! Thank you again for the GREAT video!” Leslie Bennett

    “Thank you for sharing, Harris. What an interesting life your mother must have had. It sounds as though she must have loved nature and loved life. This Paddy “character” also sounds pretty fascinating, thriving in the wilds of Canadian forests. He reminds me of some of my mother’s relatives in Saskatchewan, living rough and off the land. It’s so easy to romanticize, although the hardships can be easy to see when you get up close. We are so lucky to have experienced some of this “wild” life. I bet your mother had a wealth of experience and stories to share.” Ingrid Walther

    “Thanks for sharing this. Amazing to see that gorgeous canyon and your mother in her adventurous youth. I like the opening shot of your mother’s reflection in the glass. I’m intrigued by your mum’s story about the painters. Is there any record in their journals of who their guides were? I’m also curious about what local Indigenous people were up to back when your mother first went to Agawa. What’s your next project?” Helen Fallding

  6. Wonderful story, Harris. The “possibly true” stories complete the Canadian feel. I hope this short will be seen by many people because it is so simple and so rich at the same time. The length is probably perfect because it left me wanting more. Make more, Harris! Deanne Dufour

  7. Wonderful storytelling! Makes the canyon and the Group of Seven come alive. We can feel the warmth of the relationship between Harris’ plucky mother and the solitary guide. And the movement of time to Harris’ own love for the canyon. In addition to Harris’ family photos, the archival images are terrific – views the Group of Seven are inspired to paint.

  8. What a sweet video. You did a lovely job telling the story in the company of your mom. The old photos really spark the imagination of what an adventure it must have been to live in a box car for the summer and roam beautiful countryside and paint. Your parents were a handsome couple. They looked happy and hardy! Well done – you must feel very pleased to have that project complete!

  9. I thoroughly enjoyed this short video and was sorry when it was over. Who was the unscrupulous American women who exchanged three priceless Group of Seven paintings for one of hers?

  10. Harris, this was absolutely charming and heartwarming.
    Your voice is hypnotic & soothing and echoed the train & water soundtrack.
    Your pacing of moving images and stills of the landscapes and paintings were brilliant.
    I was mesmerized.
    I too want to know who the woman was who conned the homesteader out of 3 priceless Group of Seven masterpieces (did she know or did she just have a good eye?)!


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