Wednesday, April 11, 2012

1:1000 for April -- Alternative Communities

The focus of work on offer at the 1:1000 ezine for April is on alternative communities in the South.

San Francisco-based photographer Lucas Foglia says his portfolio A Natural Order resulted from his desire to "see what a completely self-sufficient way of living might look like."

So Foglia sought out -- in "the southeastern United States," of course -- "people who left cities and suburbs to live off the grid. Motivated by environmental concerns, religious beliefs, or predictions of economic collapse, they build their homes from local materials, obtain their water from nearby springs, and hunt, gather, or grow their own food."

Foglia is working here in the documentary tradition, bringing us images of what it looks like for folks to "live off the grid," and what the people look like who choose to live this way.

Lots of these folks look like ordinary residents of the small-town and rural South. What seems to be essential here is their decision -- in the tradition of Thoreau -- to seek self-sufficiency as a deliberate alternative to the interconnected and wired-up lives most of us live.

So the relationship, or the tension/attraction/rejection dynamic at work, between the world embraced and the world left behind is occasionally revealed in Foglia's work, as in the image above, Cora in a Realtree Camouflage Dress, Tennessee.

Those of us who lived through the commune movement of the 1960's will find some familiar scenes in this work -- good to see that old patterns have a way of resurfacing with different vocabularies for making sense of alternative patterns of behavior.

The way people dress in some of these images leads me to wonder, however,  why, when one wants to live self-sufficiently, the women wind up dressing like 19th century European peasants and the men seem to spend lots of time naked.

1:1000's other photographer featured this month is Portland-based photographer Aaron Cohen, who in his portfolio of images The Communitarians also takes a documentary approach to his subject, in this case Twin Oaks, a specific Southern alternative community.

Founded in 1967 in rural Virginia, the Twin Oaks Community is a living connection between the communitarian movement of the 1960's and the kinds of folks one meets in the work of Foglia.

Cohen reports that Twin Oaks still has over 100 members living and working together to maintain a society based on those old '60's values of cooperation, resource sharing, nonviolence, and equality.

Cohen says these folks are dedicated "to a more ecologically sustainable way of life." He reports that "those who live at Twin Oaks grow most of their own food organically, consume very few outside goods, generate very little consumer waste, and live lightly on the land."

And they don't wear anachronistic clothing (see image above).

Good to be in touch with Southerners who are continuing the Southern tradition of living unconventional lifestyles.

We must be grateful to the folks at 1:1000 for bringing them, and their photographers, to our attention.

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