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Ice shanties featured at Vermont Folklife Center

MIDDLEBURY — The Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury is opening a new exhibit in their Vision & Voice Gallery next week. “Ice Shanties: Fishing, People & Culture” is an exhibition about the structures, people and culture of ice fishing seen through the lens of Vermont-based Colombian photographer Federico Pardo. Pardo’s large-format color photographs of ice shanties at “The Meadows” in Brattleboro, are paired with audio reflections from the shanty owners drawn from interviews conducted by the Vermont Folklife Center.
While Pardo’s shanty portraits provide a visual entrée into the material culture of ice fishing, the shanty owner interviews are an opportunity to engage with the human side — the personal, familial  and recreational culture — of ice fishing.
“The ice shanty towns that spring up on Vermont’s frozen lakes and ponds are markers of the temporary communities they harbor each winter,” said Andrew Kolovos, associate director of the Vermont Folklife Center. “Practical and ingenious, shaped by function, happenstance and aesthetics, ice shanties are a window into the culture of ice fishing.”
These simple yet intriguing structures captured the attention of Pardo, who first began photographing shanties in 2016.
“The ephemeral characteristics of these shanties and their environment allow us to create imaginary narratives far from those in the tropics,” Pardo explained. “The night, the absence or presence of the moon, the day and drastic temperature changes, are some of the elements that complement these narratives and push them further from reality.”
Pardo’s photographs are an atmospheric yet detailed survey of the structures and the stark landscape from which they spring. He is an outside observer drawn to the cold beauty of this world of ice and the suggestive human presence residing tentatively on its surface. His photographs tempt us to imagine otherworldly narratives about the shanties, their owners and the seemingly timeless space they inhabit.
“The dreamlike, speculative narratives suggested by Pardo’s images are drawn down to earth by the voices of the shanty owners themselves — many of whom agreed to be interviewed for this exhibition,” said Ned Castle, the Vision & Voice Gallery director.
In these conversations the fishers speak of their shanties as structures, remark on the amenities and people they house, detail the practice of ice fishing, and, directly and indirectly, reflect the relationships, connections and community they reinvent each year at the Meadows.
Together, the images and voices give us a chance to connect with the material and human cultures of these ice fishing enclaves.
There will be an opening reception and gallery talk with photographer, Federico Pardo on Friday, Feb. 15, 5-7 p.m. at the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury. Complimentary locally sourced food and drink will be served. Can’t make it to the opening reception? No problem. The Vision & Voice Gallery is free and open to the public Monday through Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and the exhibit will be on view through the summer.

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