Courtney Milne

Saskatchewan photographer, 1943-2010
On his website we find Milne’s personal mission statement: “To reveal the Mystery ... not to try to solve it.” and his mission: “”To inspire wonder and impassioned living”.
In 1975 his marriage had fallen apart and he was unhappy with his job. His thoughts of committing suicide by jumping into the Saskatchewan River were prevented only because of the surface being frozen. Milne recalls hearing a voice tell him to move into a cabin outside of Saskatoon and photograph bison and northern lights. While certainly a result of his chronic depression and diabetes, he nonetheless did so. Within weeks of that night, Milne had transformed himself from a media executive into a photographer sleeping on a lino floor in an unheated cabin in the middle of winter. His life would never be the same.
His depression seemed tied to his diabetes. Just a few weeks after his big move he began taking insulin and maintaining a more health conscious approach to diet. From that point on, Milne found himself generally happy.
Visual studies of the prairies culminate in first book, “Prairie Light” in 1985. It has a number of sequels (Prairie Dreams (1989), Prairie Skies (1993), Saskatchewan Luminous Landscape (2005)).
As his reputation as a photographer increased, Milne gained support and resources to travel and take pictures around the globe. The Sacred Earth project (1988-89) was a ten month world journey to exotic places where Milne shot over 60,000 images, all on slides. He also became engaged to his second wife. The book project (1991) features a foreword written by the Dali Lama. Milne’s work in the 1990s focused on travel to the most beautiful and exotic spots in the world, some in Canada, many elsewhere.
Milne continued engaging with the photographic community, writing articles and teaching workshops. His 185 published articles contain a large range of commentaries, giving technical, aesthetic, and business advice to novice and professional photographers. He kept no secrets about his approaches. Any practice based in secrecy is going to be limited. Milne’s photographic practice was based in observation, patience, and connective-ness to the subject matter. These are easy to underhand but difficult to replicate, ensuring the Milne was rarely surpassed.
In 1999, with 100 days until the millennium, Milne challenged himself to create significant work every day until then. He began at home then moved around the country shooting over 7000 slides. The result was that the best ten images of them all were shot in his own back yard. Through the remainder of his life, Milne would concentrate his camera repeatedly on his backyard and in particular on the tiled swimming pool therein. The pool became a metaphor for Milne on many levels, physical, philosophical, emotional, personal, political, intellectual, and spiritual. The more he studied it, the more images he discovered to be unique and beautiful within it.
Milne eventually shifted from slides to digital images, but always maintaining the highest degree of quality and technical rigor. He died on August 29, 2010.