When Vivian Beer came back to P.E.I. after a career in Ontario, she quickly reconnected with the memories and the beauty of her home community — Clyde River.
“It’s very special to me, as is P.E.I. My father, John Beer, always said that he had never found anywhere more beautiful than Prince Edward Island. And I think so, too,” says the marketing and sales professional who returned home in 2004 to be near family.
Soon after arriving, she started noticing a disturbing trend.
“Instead of appreciating the beauty (in the community), people were racing down the highway. They were going to work. They were going to hockey practice. They weren’t taking time to stop and look at the beauty around them,” says the Charlottetown resident who looked for ways to capture the beauty and share it with others.
As a creative break on weekends, she would drive out to Clyde River and take to the back roads and side streets, photographing the beautiful things she saw. These included gardens, farms and community buildings as well as people and animals.
“When I got a number, I started putting them on Clyde River’s community website,” says Beer, the webmaster.
Her burst of creativity was noticed.
“Immediately, people started sending along their comments. Then I started doing little stories on people in the community. In the process, it gathered a bit of a following,” says Beer.
Her work also caught the attention of the Clyde River WI who asked her to invite the seniors of the area to build on the work that she had started, creating a photo essay book.
One thing led to another, and the idea was born for Landscape of Memories: Clyde River, Prince Edward Island.
Sponsored by the Clyde River Women’s Institute and funded by a New Horizons grant, the book features 60 pages of full-colour photography covering themes of farming, heritage/antiques, community buildings, community events, Murchison Place Park, landscapes and gardens.
“My enlightenment came while I was taking the pictures. I studied the land and the various scenes. Then after talking to people I began to understand the history of it,” says Beer, adding the book will be launched Nov. 10 at the Riverview Community Centre, 718 Clyde River Rd., 2-4 p.m.
For example, when people arrived in Clyde River in the early 1800s, they came there by boat. So the cemetery is right beside the water because that’s where people first built their houses.
“When Vans and Emily Bryant took me up the Clyde River in their boat, you saw the old homes and they’re perfectly set facing the river. You don’t see that from the highway. Then I understood. . . . So the book is a chance to step back and look at how Clyde River began (and take) a journey to where it is today,” says Beer.
Landscape of Memories is receiving rave reviews from Emily Bryant, a Clyde River WI life member who was involved with the project.
“I always knew it was a beautiful community, but (in this book) it’s at its best. Vivian was able to capture so many little things. My absolute favourite is the one done of the old dishes,” says Bryant, pointing to a photo of Frances Darrach Beer’s Verona china set.
She’s also excited about Saturday’s book launch.
“I think this book has something for everyone ... And the amazing thing is, it could almost be duplicated with every little community on Prince Edward Island,” she says.
Beer is appreciative of the feedback and support she has received from community members. Their co-operation made the publication possible.
“The seniors played an important part in the book. They gave me directions on what photos they wanted captured and in many cases were part of the photo shoots, particularly when I took photos of their properties,” says Beer, adding the accompanying captions also provide insight into the history of the area.
“As a photographer and writer, I was keenly aware that I was communicating and interpreting their deep knowledge and love for this community,” she says.
Now that the book is complete, Beer plans to continue collecting photographs and seniors’ memories and share them on the community website.
“You grow up hearing stories from your parents . . . People can move away and forget their story, but when they come back everyone has their story and they’re willing to tell it.”
AT A GLANCE
What: Landscape of Memories: Clyde River, Prince Edward Island book launch.
When: Nov. 10 at the Riverview Community Centre, 718 Clyde River Rd., 2-4 p.m.
Who: The book was written and photographed by Vivian Beer who grew up in Clyde River. The seniors of Clyde River were actively involved with her on this project.