Prairie Sunset chronicles change over the last century


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Submitted by Dion Manastyrski
Dion Manastyrski’s book, printed in Manitoba by Friesens Printing, is a tribute to the people who have called the Prairies home.

By Kate Jackman-Atkinson
The Neepawa Banner
Over the last century and a half, as settlers have come and gone, the prairie landscape had retained the reminders of those who once called the land their home. Photographer Dion Manastyrski has recently published a book, called Prairie Sunset: A Story of Change, documenting rural communities.

Manastyrski grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan, but currently lives in Victoria. The book was born on a trip back to prairies in 2003, when he began taking photos of old and abandoned buildings. The pictures were gathered over eight trips and while he has refrained from fully identifying the locations photographed, he said that there are quite a few taken around Riding Mountain National Park. He had the photos, but felt that something was missing, that the pictures weren’t quite enough. “In the middle, I decided I needed anecdotes,” he said. Along with close to 200 pictures are personal stories that came out of about 70 interviews, as well as about 50 documents from government archives.
Covering a time span of about 100 years, Manastyrski says the stories touch of topics such as the seeds settlers brought with them from their homelands and the development of communities. The journey into the past was a memorable one, “I learned more than I ever imagined, it was quite an unusual experience,” he said.
In 2014, Manastyrski decided he was ready to proceed with printing the book, but wanted it to be printed in Canada.  Through pre-sales, he crowdfunded $40,000 to self publish the book and sold out his first printing.  With the second printing, he has been travelling to small towns across the prairies, hoping to bring the book back to its roots. 
In August, he visited 40 small towns and found local stores to sell copies of the book. “I want people to support small towns.  I met hundreds of people [writing the book], supporting small towns and small family farms is so important,” he explained.
Locally, the book is available in Neepawa (at Home Hardware) and in Minnedosa (at Inspire Studio of Fine Art).