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Local publisher wins international literary award

Sault-based Tagona Creative wins award for book published about Prince Edward County’s seasons
Tagona Creative Four Seasons book cover 960
The cover of Tagona Creative's A Four Season County: Prince Edward.

“Sometimes Tagona finds its inspirations far from the Sault.”

So reads a statement on Tagona Creative’s website.

The Sault-based publishing company was founded by Bryan Davies and Andrew Traficante.

The company’s latest book A Four Season County: Prince Edward proves that particular statement to be distinctly true.

Back in July 2020, Davies imagined a book that would take the reader through beautiful, historic Prince Edward County, a municipality in southern Ontario along Lake Ontario, highlighting its four seasons.

Davies’ vision led to a silver medal for the non-fiction category at the 2021 North American Independent Publisher Awards (IPPY).

In a press release, Tagona co-founder Bryan Davies described the award as: “Gratifying in every way. Book publishing is a challenging enterprise at any time, and the COVID pandemic added some new hurdles.”

Davies worked with photographers local to Prince Edward County, including Peggy deWitt, Robbie Garden, Phil Norton and Jason Pettit.

The photographers collectively contributed over ninety gorgeous images telling a County story that goes far beyond its wineries and famed Sandbanks Provincial Park.

Professional photographer Peggy deWitt grew up near Newcastle, Ontario but has lived in Prince Edward County for most of her adult life.

Having always had a love for photography, deWitt started her own home-based photography business in 1992 and has since published three books.

Her work is well known and appreciated for its distinctive interpretation of the region.

“Bryan [Davies] reached out to me with his idea of doing the County book with three other talented photographers,” says deWitt.  

“I was on-board. It sounded like a really great idea to me. Getting involved with this project was a wonderful opportunity. I loved the idea of collaborating with three other amazing Prince Edward County photographers to showcase our work and having Bryan taking the lead on this, looking after the writing, printing, promotional end of things and finding our sponsor Picton Harbour Inn.”

For this project, deWitt selected strong images that she had taken in the past that captured the seasons in The County.

“With the timeline for this project, it was the only option,” she says.

“It was to be a four-season book so we would have to go through a whole year to capture all the seasons and this was not an option.”

The book, which was printed in the Fall of 2020, was made available for the Christmas season of 2020.

deWitt says the timing of the project was perfect for her due to free time that was available because of COVID.

“I had free time and it gave me something positive to work on,” she says.

“I was able to go through all of my images with fresh eyes to find images of all four County seasons to display in this book.”

For Prince Edward County-born and raised photographer Robbie Garden, who Davies describes as a “modest and unbelievably talented guy,” the project marked the first time his photography was published.

“I used a mix of photographs that I had taken over the past couple of years and ones that I captured during the early months of the pandemic,” he says.

“I was excited about [Davies’] vision and very happy to join the team of talented photographers on this project.”

Garden was pleased with the final published book.

“Bryan's original vision was to showcase Prince Edward County as more than just a tourist destination with great beaches, wineries and food, but to truly celebrate the diverse flora and fauna and the rich history of the area,” he says.

“I was very happy to see that the final product stayed true to our initial idea and anyone who reads a copy of the book will get a real sense of how amazing the area is.”

For Jason Pettit, also born and raised in Prince Edward County, landscape photography is a direct extension and reflection of his own life experience.

Davies connected with Pettit on the recommendation of Robbie Garden.

“[Davies] asked him if he knows anyone in the county who might be able to do this. Rob and I had been connecting over social media for a few years with our photography and he was kind enough to give Bryan my contact history, and the rest is history.”

Pettit who had been previously interested in publishing a photo book of the county but wasn’t sure how to make it happen, the timing was perfect.

“When this opportunity came up I leaped at the chance. I'm passionate about nature in the county so this book was a great way for me to play that out.”

Pettit used some photos that he had already taken, but took others between May and September.

“I was very pleased with the final product,” he says.

“Seeing something you're passionate about published in a book that would be viewed by many others was a pretty great feeling.”

Pettit says the announcement of the IPPY award was “the icing on the cake.”

“It proved that not just my creative contribution, but the creative contributions by the whole team were high quality and that the subject of the county was worthy of wider attention,” says Pettit.

Garden agrees.

The award was a really nice surprise,” he says.

“None of us involved had any ambition or desire to be recognized for our work. We genuinely love the place that we live, but I was delighted to hear that our work and the work of our writing and publishing team had been celebrated.” 

deWitt describes the feeling as a “good energy.”

Davies felt honoured that Tagona Creative’s latest book was recognized at the awards.

“Our book is a testament to a wonderful collaborative effort, four talented Prince Edward County photographers working beautifully in synch with our equally fine Sault creative and production team.”

The Sault creative and production team included local photographers Joanie and Gary McGuffin, who provided creative direction and editing, as well as local writer, editor and researcher Helen Dow, who with Davies, wrote the text for the book.

“The Sault's own Gary McGuffin [aided by Joannie] did all of the book photo edits,” said Davies. 

"Gary has won major photography awards for almost 40 years, and their amazing Painted Land film about the Group of Seven.”

Davies says that Gary McGuffin worked to confirm “the composition and other technical photography skills” that the entire county [photography] crew brought to this work.

“These folks are gems,” he says. 

deWitt, who was not originally familiar with the McGuffins' work prior to the project, was pleased to been made aware of them.

“They are very talented photographers themselves,” she says.  

“I do look forward to meeting them in real life someday after COVID.”

The award for the book was presented virtually on June 30.

“I had the honour of being the Four Season County team's frontman at the North American Independent Publishing Awards (the IPPYs) virtual ceremony where we were recognized,” says Davies.

Davies is thrilled that the Sault is the creative epicentre for Tagona’s publication, especially the entire 'Four Season' series.

“We have four more Ontario Four Season books coming right out of the Sault in the next two months.”

Prince Edward is the first of five books that Tagona Press is publishing as its 2021 Ontario Four Season series.

“The additional four books will focus on Hastings County, Durham Region, and two Algoma District books.”

Purchase the A Four Season County: Prince Edward on the Algoma Marketplace website.

Find out more about Tagona Creative on their website.