Canada is often misunderstood and misrepresented. So, I wanted to produce a long-term project that is both beautiful and enlightening as to what makes Canada a great nation.

To begin, in the summer of 2011, I took a four-month long road trip across Canada. I photographed Canadians from coast to coast. Being a Canadian but having lived in the US for 14 years, I had seen more of America than my own country.

Also, as a Canadian living in the US for so long, I found that my knowledge of American culture and geography had grown far superior to my familiarity of the place I was born.

Growing up in Toronto, my comprehension of Canada barely extended past Montreal and Ottawa (with an occasional trip to cottage country or to Niagara Falls). I had never been to the Maritimes; never driven across the Prairies; never visited the Rocky Mountains.

There has been a long history of photographers undertaking road trips: Walker Evans (Let Us Now Praise Famous Men), Robert Frank (The Americans), Joel Sternfeld (American Prospects), Alec Soth (Sleeping by the Mississippi) and Simon Roberts (We English). With the exception of Frank, a Swiss, these photographers were all photographing familiar ground: their own country.

I, like Robert Frank, looked at the landscape and people through the eyes of a stranger, an outsider: everything was fresh and new to me, allowing me to avoid clichés and the predictable.

Another marked difference between myself and these other photographers is that I’m a woman. The documentary road trip has traditionally been a male-dominated genre. Whether it’s because of the solitary nature of being on the open road, the danger associated with road trips or that women typically are caregivers with family obligations, this form of photography has long been a practice undertaken by men.

I, never one to succumb to stereotypes, was only too eager to buck the trend.

Primarily an environmental portraitist, I photographed my subjects in their natural settings using portable lighting techniques.

This journey opened my eyes to my country and how special Canadians are.

—Naomi Harris