Michigan’s Ice Culture Comes Into Focus At New Photo Exhibit

Detroit photographer Amy Sacka has spent the past five years exploring winter culture in Michigan and around the Great Lakes. Her exhibit “Last Ice” brings the large-scale photos to audiences in metro Detroit.

Detroit photographer Amy Sacka is marking the end of ice fishing season in Michigan with a stunning new exhibit of her photos at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle.

The exhibit “Last Ice” pulls photos from the past five years, which Sacka has spent documenting winter culture around all five of the Great Lakes. It was a project supported by a Knight Arts Challenge grant and inspired by her father, who has been ice fishing for decades. Before this new exhibition, Sacka’s work appeared in National Georgraphic twice.

“We all benefit from multiple points of view about our Great Lakes.” — Amy Sacka, photographer

Amy Sacka
Amy Sacka

“For the past five years, I have been documenting ice cover,” says Sacka. “What I’ve discovered over the years is that the seasons are shortening.”

The small exhibit at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum features Sacka’s large-scale photography work printed on metal for a striking visual composition. It also includes her writing alongside some multimedia elements that celebrate Michigan’s ice fishing heritage. 

It also points out some of the ways that climate change is affecting ice fishing around the Great Lakes and transforming the culture around it as the seasons get shorter due to warmer weather and less ice cover.

“The work is presented in the way that I would like people to see it,” says Sacka. “There’s a certain haunting quality about the work. It’s printed on metal. It’s black and white. I want them to see the beauty but also the unease that comes with this fact that our culture is, in some ways, slipping away from us.”

In addition to Sacka’s work, the exhibit features photos by Valaurian Waller, who explores the culture around fishing from the Detroit riverfront, and an ice shanty installation from artists Scott Hocking and Michael McGillis.

“The collaborations have been something that I’ve been so proud of. … We all benefit from multiple points of view about our Great Lakes and as many voices as can be represented we’re better for it,” Sacka says.

“Last Ice” will be on display at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle through April 24. Admission to the museum is free but a donation is encouraged.

Listen: Amy Sacka talks about her experience documenting ice cover and winter culture around the Great Lakes.

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  • Ryan Patrick Hooper
    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host of "In the Groove" on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.