There’s a lot of complaining this time of year about the weather, about snow and ice, the cold, about storms and wind. And yet there are plenty of people for whom winter truly is a wonderland: those who snowshoe and ski, those who snowmobile and ice fish, and those who take pictures.
Really? Who takes pictures in the winter when everything is white-washed by snow?
“I love being out in the winter,” Pugwash photographer Fred Horton told me. “Winter is a whole other season. It’s the stillness, the silence when you’re snowshoeing or skiing.”
I’d stopped in at Fred’s gallery on Durham Street a few weeks ago and during the course of our conversation, Fred had said to me, “I love going to the beach in the winter. The sounds and smells are the same as summer but it’s a completely different world.”
The idea stuck with me because few of us venture to the beach in the winter, few of us see the potential and the beauty in ice and snow like Fred does.
“One of my first experiences of winter on the beach was at the Bay of Fundy,” Fred says. “We camped down there and I remember walking there at night in the moonlight; it was freezing cold, and the waves were rolling in. The sound of the ocean was the sound of summer but it was like we were in another world.”
Fred’s interest in photography began when he was a teenager. While growing up in Riverview, New Brunswick, he started out hiking with friends but when they grew bored of it, Fred says he had two choices: go with them, or go by himself.
“At first, it was quite scary to be on my own because I had never been in the woods alone; I’d always been with other people,” he remembers. “Suddenly, there are sounds and all kinds of things going on that you don’t recognize so it took awhile to adjust to that, to being in nature.”
Everything changed when Fred began carrying a Kodak Instamatic camera with him. Having inherited an artistic eye from his mother, who is a painter, Fred discovered that what he saw with his eye could be recorded on film.
“Photography came naturally from being out in nature,” he explains. “It was just a natural flow because I was seeing the beauty and the camera capturing it.”
Fred moved to Pugwash in 1990 with his wife, Marilyn, and bought the big house next to the post office because it had enough space for him to open a main-floor gallery for his photographs.
Fred says his favourite time of year is fall-into-winter, when everything freezes up but the snow hasn’t come yet. Some of his most striking photographs, which he now prints on canvas, are of natural objects, such as leaves, frozen in ice.
“I love that kind of thing. Walking over ice and looking down. It’s like a fantasy world. When you photograph it, it looks like a painting,” he explains.
So while everyone else is glued to the television or to the computer, wondering when the next storm is due to hit, Fred is looking out the window and longing for it.
“People freak out about an ice storm,” he says, “but of course, I’m out there.”