Sandra Herber

Student/ Non-Professional – Prix de la Photographie Paris 2019
Fine Art Best New Talent: Sandra Herber – Ice Fishing Huts

In Sandra Herber’s typological series, ice-fishing huts on Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada, appear as centrally framed, quirky, vernacular objects on an empty white landscape. Against a barely perceptible horizon where the sky and the ice merge seamlessly, they almost look abstracted from the surrounding environment.

“Though the huts are often grouped together, each one is unique and its own little world and I wanted to show them as individual pieces of folk architecture,” Herber says. “Many of their owners decorate them and they’re expressions of male interests like allegiance to a hockey or football team, male values and male creativity.”

Herber discovered the ice-fishing huts through visiting a friend’s cabin in 2018. She subsequently returned the next year and photographed a total of 50-60 huts during the two trips.

“It was very exciting – the huts presented me with a whole new subject but one which I could shoot in the minimalist style I’d been moving towards for years in my photography,” she enthuses.

As Herber explains, as soon as the ice is thick enough to support a truck towing a hut, the huts can be taken out onto the frozen lake. By law, they must be removed from the ice at the end of March.

“Most of the fishermen are amateurs and this is their winter hobby,” says Herber, who spent time chatting to the fishermen about their way of life. As she recounts, “One told me that he had spent the entire last winter living in his hut. Another said he could see his hut from his office window and whenever he did, he just wanted to be out on the ice and not at work.”

Born in Johannesburg in 1966, Herber is based in Toronto where she works as a librarian. Passionate about photographing minimalist winter scenes, she would like to continue capturing the Canadian Prairies and revisit Greenland to photograph it in the winter once travel restrictions relating to the Covid-19 health crisis are lifted. “When we can travel overseas again, I would love to continue working in polar regions,” she says.

By Anna Sansom