December 2008: Ojibway, photograph by Fred Hill
Header image: Ojibway, photograph by Fred Hill

Featured Artist: Fred Hill

Fred Hill...

Fred Hill

The featured artist for December is photographer Fred Hill, a very quiet, unassuming individual you won’t otherwise hear much about. Our introduction to him was at a Sault Summer Arts Festival years ago, in the Cisler Center, when he appeared and won an award. He appeared at other festivals, usually winning, and showed up at our very first auction in the Sault Middle School with a framed photograph of a Soo Line caboose, bathed in sunlight.

Fred was born in the Sault, one of five children, and has lived here most of his life, except for what he terms “a couple of tours in Germany and Oklahoma” (his father was career army). He graduated from Sault High and attended Lake State for three years, studying mainly liberal arts, with a heavy dose of history. He says the course that really caught his attention was the history and study of movies, which sparked an interest in cinematography and photography in general. Starting with a used 8mm Bolex movie camera he was soon shooting home movies, stormy weather (particularly winter storms), and lake freighters. Just prior to entering what he calls his “movie making phase”, in the dead of winter, he began sailing on the Leon Fraser as a deckhand, joining his brothers Richard (who was our featured artist in October) and Bill, and armed with a simple Kodak camera. He’s also worked on the D. M. Clemson and the Irving S. Olds.

Deciding that the Kodak didn’t do justice to the beauty of the winter river and lake, he continued sailing to earn money for a 35mm single lens reflex camera and an 8mm movie camera, and enrolled in a correspondence course—The School of Modern Photography. The next step was printing negatives and then moving on to concentrate mostly on slides; matting his photographs and making frames. His subject matter continued to be lake boats and scenes along the St. Mary’s, together with old barns, landscapes and scenes of the Sault and its people. He sailed on a few more boats and then linked up with another ex-sailor to start a house painting business.

When his sister asked him to go to the Bay Area in California to work on her house and rental properties, it began a pattern, which continues to this day, of heading west in the early spring or fall to work, while painting in the Sault during the summer. (He painted La Galerie right before it opened, and painted Alberta House a year or so later.)

On Halloween Fred left the Sault to travel to California via Amtrak’s Empire Builder (trains are another strong interest), where he’ll be painting houses in the Bay Area until about Christmas. Fred says he’s traveled many miles on Amtrak, shooting slides and taking movies along the rails. He’s taken Canada’s Via Rail from Thunder Bay to the West Coast as well.

Another hobby of Hill’s is backpacking. He has backpacked all but about 700 miles of the 2,100 mile Appalachian Trail, taking along a small Canon 35mm camera. He plans to complete the trail in the not-too-distant future. When not backpacking he uses an Olympus 33mm SLR and a Minolta 35mm SLR, shooting mainly slides. His movie camera is now a digital Sony camcorder, much more compact than his old 8mm Bolex. He sells his photos occasionally. Many of you saw his Irving S. Olds and his Ralph Misener in our November 1 Art Auction, and more of his marine photographs illustrating his brother Rich’s book, Lake Effect. He’ll be bringing some photos to the Alberta House Shop when he returns to the Sault after Christmas. Look for them when we reopen after our January break.

Photographs by Fred Hill
Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version.

Derelict, photograph by Fred Hill


Ojibway, photograph by Fred Hill


Storm, photograph by Fred Hill


Chief Wawatam, photograph by Fred Hill

Chief Wawatam

Last updated: December 5, 2008

Sault Area Arts Council Home Page 217 Ferris Street, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783
e-mail: Phone: (906) 635-1312