The Pursuit of Ice, 11X14 digital prints
Last winter, funded by a National Geographic Explorer grant, I drove 10,000 miles around Michigan in pursuit of Great Lakes ice. A native Michigander, my journey was, in many ways, a personal one. Some of my earliest memories are of my father leaving the house in the muddy black of winter mornings, armed with a bucket, ice auger and a desire to catch the limit before sunrise.
On my journey, I visited ice fishing communities on Lake Huron, Erie, Michigan and a few inland lakes. I spent hours peering into chiselled-out holes, alert for slips of silvery beauty to swim into view. I sat with countless anglers in closet-like shanties, swapping stories the stuff of confessionals. I whizzed over ice on snowmobiles pointed toward nowhere, one time hopping off only when a gaping pressure crack came into view.
I documented the longest-running ice-fishing vacation school, ice fishing festivals, polar bear dips, snowmobile drag races and broom ice hockey matches. I saw the cultural fabric of Michigan stitched together by single-digit temperatures. Like so many, I intently watched the weather for signs of warming temperatures – courting the ice until it disappeared.
According to the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences + Assessments Center, “the Great Lakes have experienced less ice cover on average during the last 20-30 years compared to earlier years, prior to the 1990s.” Part of my exploration was to gather the stories of those who have experienced this decline, to learn its effects on the culture and what is happening in the face of it. Along the way, I learned that the ice cannot be easily pinned down, its shifts from year-to-year and lake-to-lake, making it difficult to understand and predict into the future. As such, “The Pursuit of Ice” evolved into a relentless pursuit of Middle American place, as much a reflection of my own history as it is of Great Lakes ice culture.