A Tribute to Courtney Milne
Courtesy of Sherrill Miller
February 26, 2012
Collage of photographs by Courtney Milne
Throughout his personal and professional life, Saskatchewan photographer Courtney Milne served as an advocate for the land, drawing attention to the beauty of the landscape and how the land is a powerful influence on the human spirit.
A world renowned landscape photographer, Mr. Milne’s work was published in thirteen books including The Sacred Earth, with a foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and more than 200 essays on the art of photography. His artistic vision was “to reveal life’s unfolding mystery ~~ not to try to solve it.” He celebrated the distinctive nature of the prairie in his earliest work, then spent decades photographing sacred places in more than 55 countries around the globe.
Winter on the prairie by Courtney Milne
In the last ten years of his life he returned to focus once again on his beloved prairie, and in particular on one pool of water on his acreage near Saskatoon. He realized his experience was a perfect example of philosopher Marcel Proust’s adage that “the real voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” While the parade of the seasons and the feng shui of wind and light on water captivated him, his true joy was this whimsical ability to look at nature’s feast and see an upside-down world full of magic.
Spring Runoff by Courtney Milne
Grass with out of focus highlights by Courtney Milne
Courtney Milne’s passion for life and for his work was palpable, and he lived his belief that “the presence of our being is the greatest gift we can give.” He was the epitome of Mark Twain’s quote: “You cannot depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus.” He was playful, joyful, and full of puns. Many people who saw his more impressionistic images exclaimed “that looks like a Monet”. He would laugh and say “thanks for the compliment … sometimes we call them Milne-nays!”
Receptiveness from the Pool of Possibilities Project
Teeming from the Pool of Possibilities Project
"Miracles begin with you. You must find that place inside yourself where nothing is impossible."
The Sacred Earth
"I have always felt guided in my journey that has now taken me to each of the world's seven continents, to more than 30 countries and 140 sites. It has been my mission to photograph the natural landscapes and the created places which have held mystical and sacred importance for humankind through the ages."
Mt. Fuji, Japan through a dew drop Image from his book - Sacred Earth
He was a writer, a teacher and an inspirational speaker, presenting hundreds of photography seminars and inspirational multi-media performances around the world.
Callanish standing stones, Scotland. Image from his Book - Sacred Earth
Selections from Mr. Milne’s professional library of 550,000 images have been featured in international presentations such as UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, the United Nations Earth Summit and travelling exhibit, To Care for the Earth, and the Worldwide Fund for Nature. He contributed images to many philanthropic endeavours including the Saskatchewan Abilities Council, Canadian Save the Children, and the Nature Conservancy of Canada. His work is featured in museums and galleries across Canada. His book, Saskatchewan, The Luminous Landscape was presented to the Queen and other dignitaries during the province’s 2005 centennial celebrations. Images from the book were also donated to the Saskatchewan Encyclopedia Centennial project and the Lieutenant Governor’s Centennial Gala.
Bighorn Medicine Wheel, Wyomming - Aerial view from his book Sacred Earth
Isle, Japan - Tree from the Sacred Earth Collection
Blue Whale breaching the surface from the Sacred Earth Collection (Slide Sandwich)
Rapa Nui National Park Easter Island from the Sacred Earth Collection
Mr. Milne also created and gifted a permanent online collection of iconic Saskatchewan landscape images titled Coolscapes, as an education tool for the schools of the province.
Pool of Possibilities
Courtney was constantly amazed that he could go out every day and find something new – that pushed him to the edges of his seeing. It was compelling, entrancing, all encompassing and enchanting. In 2007 he published the Pool of Possibilities, a perpetual online daily e-calendar of 365 different images accompanied by his comments called Poolside Wisdom. He gave each day a name reflecting the interaction between nature and human nature, then named his months for the rhythms of nature and the planetary forces that impact the world.
The Pool is a physical space in the real world. It is the swimming pool in Courtney's backyard. The Pool became a way for him to record and honor Nature's rhythms. It is a celebration of both Mother Nature and Human Nature. On the autumn equinox of 1999 (September 23rd) he calculated that there were exactly 100 days remaining in the Millennium. He vowed do something significant with his camera everyday.
In February 2000, with a more relaxed daily schedule, Courtney reviewed the nearly 7500 slides he had acquired for the Hundred-Day Project. A small sample of the pictures he took of his backyard pool are shown below and in the embedded movie. He shows us that one doesn't have to travel far to capture amazing beauty, but rather that it is all around us if we look carefully.
Courtney Milne photographing his pool in his backyard
Courtney Milne, January 2011 video co-produced by Patrick McCloskey and Art Holbrook - McCloskey Productions Inc.
Courtney Milne received many awards including the Gold Medal for Distinction in Canadian Photography, two Agfa Special Achievement Awards, and an Honourary Master of Arts from the Professional Photographers of Canada. In 2005 he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Regina, the Lieutenant Governor’s Centennial Arts Pin, and the Commemorative Medal for the Centennial of Saskatchewan. In 2009 he was named as one of 100 Alumni of Influence by the College of Arts and Science at the University of Saskatchewan.
University of Saskatchewan Award
In 2009 Milne was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Although he initially improved, he later developed complications; at that point he felt his purpose in life was fulfilled and he was gratified that his work was done, and had been received. His last words were: “From now on, the heart is in charge.” He died in August 2010. In 2011 he was invested into the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, the province’s highest honor.
Photo of Courtney, captured by his friend Cathy on the riverbank near Outlook
Sherrill Miller was Courtney Milne's partner and co-author on various projects. She continues to market Milne's images and the Pool of Possibilities e-calendar, as well as offer inspirational presentations about their life and creative work and workshops on Inner Landscapes. She currently lives in their home on an acreage in Grandora, Saskatchewan.
Website: Courtney Milne - Photographer as Mystic - his website
Contact information click here
Photo Left: Courtney Milne and Sherrill Miller
Editors Note: I met Courtney in Calgary about a decade ago at a slide presentation he gave in downtown Calgary and I was impressed most with his enthusiasm. I liked how he seemed to push himself to really see more than what was before him. I subsequently purchased several of his books - my favorite is called "W. 0. Mitchell Country" though I am also taken by his more recent photographs around his pool. I invited Sherrill to share some of her thoughts and Courtney's images so that more photographers and nature lovers would become aware of his art. I was saddened to hear of his departure and its clear that we have lost one of the finest Canadian outdoor photographers. I wish I could have known him better. His spirit lives on through his art and I am grateful to his partner Sherrill Miller for sharing this text and his photographs - to see more of his work and books please explore some of the links below. RB