November–December 2021

The Changing View

Through the seasons and through the years, a simple scene reveals complexities and wonders.

Near Itasca State Park is an old farm with a hill that looks down on a tiny unnamed lake. "I was always enamored of the view," says photographer Richard Hamilton Smith—so enamored that he literally bought the farm in the late 1980s. Whenever he wasn't traveling for work, he gravitated to the place, taking in the scene, which included a lone birch tree that stood out against the lake.

"I spent as much time as I could with this particular view," he says, "and I decided that I would record what was happening with the tree and around the tree, but I would always leave a portion of the tree in the photograph."

The idea became a project, and the project became a challenge, goading Smith to draw on all his photographic tools to reveal new moods and dimensions in his chosen frame of view. He eventually made hundreds of discrete images, some of which are shown on the following pages and on this issue's cover. 

"I like to make minimalistic pictures with fewer ingredients and answers," says Smith. "They're more evocative, and they allow more imagination."