Framed by Frozen Lakes, Richard Johnson’s ‘Ice Huts’ Capture Wintertime Communities in Canada — Colossal

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#Richard Johnson

January 29, 2024

Kate Mothes

“Ice Hut GRID #6” From the Series ‘Ice Huts’ (2007-2019). All images © Richard Johnson Photography, Inc., shared with permission

Bodies of water in northern United States and Canada start to freeze in late December or early January, when temperatures are consistently below zero. When the ice is thicker than four inches it is safe to walk and more than five inches it’s safe for snowmobiles. Residents flock to the lakes. Ontario’s 279-square-mile Lake SimcoeFor example, the ice fishing on Lake Superior attracts more people than any other lake in North America. Each year, it attracts upwards of 4, 000 huts.

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 young child growing up in Trinidad, my earliest memory of shelter is as a 6-year old. It was the guard house of our neighbour. It was no more than three walls with a leaning roof. It was a simple way to protect from tropical rains and shade the harsh sun. These shelters were built by individuals using available materials. They inspired me to pay attention.

The photos showcase a wide range of materials and design options that make up seasonal communities. From simple one-person sheds, to more sophisticated board and batten structures, the photos cover a broad spectrum. Johnson captured the unique personality of each hut, in a rectangular format, framed with a snowy landscape. Their inhabitants are usually out of sight. 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 WebsitePrints are available at.


“Ice Hut #356” (2010), La Baie Des Ha! Ha!, Saguenay River, Québec

“Ice Village #178” (2016), Péribonka, Lac Saint-Jean, Québec

“Ice Hut GRID #11”

“Ice Hut #220” (2009), Killarney Beach, Lake Simcoe, Ontario

“Ice Hut #137” (2008), Gilford, Lake Simcoe, Ontario

“Ice Hut #998” (2017), New Liskeard, Lake Timiskaming, Ontario

“Ice Village #47” (2013), Renforth, Kennebecasis River, New Brunswick

“Ice Hut #946” (2016), Péribonka, Lac Saint-Jean, Québec

#Richard Johnson


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