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Bodies of water in northern United States and Canada start to freeze in late December or early January, when temperatures are consistently below zero. Once the ice thickness reaches four inches or more, it’s safe to walk, and five inches or more is usually safe to use snowmobiles. Residents flock to the lakes. Ontario’s 279-square-mile Lake SimcoeThe ice fishing at this lake is the most popular in North America. It attracts up to 4,000 huts every year.
Richard Johnson (1957-2021), a Toronto-based architectural photojournalist, was intrigued by the colorful villages of handbuilt structures that populate popular spots in the coldest months. He captured hundreds of these structures, from the artistic and ad hoc, in bold portraits taken from 2007 to 2019. “I have always been fascinated with small structures,” Johnson said. He continued:
As a six-year-old, I grew up in Trinidad. It was the guard house of our neighbor. Three walls and a roof that leans to one side was all it took to provide shade from the sun and rain. These shelters, constructed by individuals from available materials, inspired to take notice.
The photos show a variety of materials and designs that make up the seasonal communities. These range from simple sheds for one person to more sophisticated board-and batten buildings. Johnson captured each hut’s unique personality in a square format. The huts were framed by a snowy scene, and their inhabitants were usually hidden. Some versions of the huts are small enough to tow onto the ice using a vehicle. They feature unique décor and enough room to hold several persons, a small heater, and basic provisions.
See more on Richard Johnson Gallery’s WebsiteYou can buy prints at.
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