One trip might have him trekking the magnificence of the Athabasca Sand Dunes, while another beckons him to near-ghost town desolation of Uranium City. But in each new place he waits patiently to capture on film even a fleeting glimpse of the relationship people have with the boundless, unfathomable Canadian expanse.
“I like the landscape, of course, but I’m also fascinated by how people ultimately interact with it, what it is they do when they get out there and how they do it,” said the graduate of the University of Saskatchewan’s fine arts program.
Plaetner’s travels are highlighted in his new photography collection entitled Canada Three Sixty, a photography exhibit running July 3-7 in the Gordon Snelgrove Gallery at the U of S. Although he lives in Saskatoon, and thus can highlight his home province with greater ease, the exhibition dovetailed with Canada 150 celebrations as an exploration of the country’s great western terrain, from the coastal shores of British Columbia through to Manitoba’s infinite lakefronts.
Born and raised in Copenhagen, Denmark, Plaetner first fell in love with Canada during a cultural exchange he took part in at the age of 19. Today, his time immigrating to an unknown country and exploring its boundaries lies at the heart of Canada Three Sixty, which he hopes shines a light on others’ similar experiences.
“The way that people interact with the world really is determined by their cultural roots,” he said. “A lot of people come from countries where we don’t have this vast landscape that we have here, and so people behave very differently once they get out into it. They’ll drive for thousands of kilometres to go and see something and to be immersed in it.”
Plaetner has always held an interest in photography, and fondly recalls a youth spent hopping trains from Copenhagen to Paris and beyond, only returning home to transform the family bathroom into a makeshift darkroom.
As an adult, Plaetner said a general sense of malaise inspired him to chase his lifelong passion and enrol in a few art classes at the U of S. Before he knew it, he was “entrenched in a BFA.”
“A general arts degree is very versatile,” he said. “It gives you some new ideas, and that’s exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to do some new things with my life.”
As a former member of the merchant marine, a fleet of import and export ships in Denmark, Plaetner had traversed more than 50 countries before deciding to call Canada home.
“I’d been to Australia already and to the Middle East and all over Europe, and I came here and I thought this was a really interesting place,” he said. “It’s so large and there’s so much of it that we tend to forget that the East Coast looks and is very different from the West Coast.”
Plaetner is planning to expand Canada Three Sixty into an ongoing project over the next several years, beginning with some new adventures into the country’s eastern half and perhaps one day dipping a toe into the northern territories.
“I started out with the idea of staying close to home,” he said. “So many Canadians like to travel overseas and abroad, sometimes neglecting what’s here. There’s a lot here—just about every geography you could want and a lot of very interesting places full of interesting people.”