On the prairies of Manitoba, the Hutterites are outside. They are playing hockey, climbing hay bales, fishing, swimming, riding bikes, and connecting to their surroundings in ways that are increasingly uncommon with young people today in mainstream society. Though distractions such as smartphones, the internet, and video games can pose problems on colonies just as they do in the outside world, they are much less of an issue here. Turn up at a colony at any given time and odds are that if the young people aren’t at work, they are at play.
On the colonies, members are cared for from the cradle to the grave and never have to worry about finding work, paying bills, or the other common stressors of mainstream society. There is freedom in not worrying about how you will afford your next meal, or who will care for you in sickness or old age.
The Hutterites are an Anabaptist religious group whose roots trace back to the 16th century Protestant Reformation. They live communally on colonies throughout western Canada and the northwestern United States. Their culture continues to be preserved through deliberate separation from mainstream society and economic self-sufficiency. They represent the most successful version of communal living in modern history.
I have been photographing the Hutterites of Manitoba since the spring of 2009. My goal has been to produce a body of work that sheds light on a group of people who are either unknown or misunderstood by the majority of mainstream society. I hope that in this work viewers will see connections to their own lives and experiences.
Manitoba-based photographer Tim Smith has spent twelve years documenting life on the Canadian prairies, including ten years photographing the Hutterites; isolated Anabaptists that live communally, away from mainstream society on colonies throughout western Canada and northwestern United States.
His work is among the broadest and most extensive visual documentations of their culture ever produced. In addition to long-term documentary work, he covers assignments for a variety of editorial and commercial clients in the prairies and occasionally further afield. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines worldwide. Follow him on Instagram @othertimsmith to see more of his work documenting the Hutterites.