By coincidence, I was in New York the day after Lehman Brothers crashed, back in 2008. Fear was in the air. Not a nice smell.
I sat in a Hungarian pastry shop near Columbia University, downing cup after cup of diner-style coffee, chatting with a friend. His name is Ivan, and he’s the only person I’ve ever met who introduced himself as a Mexican Marxist Yankee Fan. Top that.
He was my professor in graduate school, an expert in the Globalized Economy. We stayed in touch after I left school, but this was our first meeting in 4 years. Each sip of the weak, caffeinated beverage sped the pace of our speech. Spittle flew, hair was tossed, eyes ablaze.
In the end, we agreed that the Global Economic System would not collapse. The crisis, in it’s purest form, was not yet 24 full hours old. Still, we thought it through, and both believed that there was too much money in the system, too much at stake, for Chaos to Reign. Whosoever had any money left at all, be it the Chinese, the Oil Kingdoms, the Russians…little matter. Money would, in the end, protect itself.
I clung to that belief as the markets fell. It will get better. It will get better. Back home, my in-laws would make off-handed comments, like, “Well, at least we have lots of water, and we can always grow our own food on the farm.” Or other times, someone would say, “At least Tim (my brother-in-law) knows how to hunt. A big elk can last a long time.” Not. Very. Re-assuring.
By now, we all know it never came to that. The system defended itself, though, of course, many still suffer. Still, the milk trucks run, McDonalds cranks out it’s faux-burger-patties, and now we have Facebook. It’s hard to channel the depths of that early fear, but I remember it’s smell.
There are those, though, who need not fear a system crash. They eschew the system, and re-create the old ways. Living off the land, beards aflowing. We have lots of folks like that in Taos, and we call them hippies. Most of them live on the Mesa, where the water flows 600 feet beneath them. Good luck drilling through that.
But that’s all I know of such communities: local gossip and hearsay. Not much to go on. And the little I’ve seen makes me root for the system to chug along a bit longer. I don’t think I’d like the taste of bony rabbit, but you never know.
That said, I was fascinated to get a glimpse inside the lifestyle, courtesy of Lucas Foglia’s new book “A Natural Order,” published by Nazraeli Press. It’s a straight-forward, very well produced volume that settles down into a group of off-the-grid communities in the Southeast of the United States. Fascinating stuff.
The first test that I give a book, when I pluck it from my stack, is, do I want to see more? Is there a need to turn the page? Do the pictures build to something, or can I get a good sense of the thing from the first 10 pages? You’d be surprised how many books, by great artists, are not designed to hold attention. Simply to show off the plates. (Just this morning, I set down a book by Daido Moriyama for that very reason. A big name artist does not guarantee a great book.)
When I picked this one up, though, I was captured, and transported. Ironically, I’d seen some of these images before on the Internet, and was unimpressed. But a book is a thing, with a built-in structure. Not a few illuminated pixels on a screen. And in book form, this work shines.
I’d guess that the artist was using a large-format camera, given the sharpness and clarity of the photographs. But the angles and setting, deep in the woods, would have made that a difficult proposition. Either way, kudos to the image quality.
The photo on the cover shows a young red-headed lad, in the woods, holding up a big cast iron skillet filled with mystery meat. The title, given later, confirms that it’s possum. Yummy, yummy possum. (I think I’ll keep my refrigerator, thanks.)
After the title page, the artist delivers a short statement about his upbringing. Apparently, his family lived off the land, not far from NYC. But they didn’t take it as far as the subjects of the book. So Mr. Foglia, curious to see his how far the lifestyle could be pushed, set out to discover the answers for himself. That is how it’s done.
The pictures are well-composed, and slowly build together the details that matter. Animal skins covering windows, teepees popped up alongside pretty lakes. Guns, and bows and arrows, and chainsaws and women with underarm hair. Water serves to bathe, but also as a mirror for a man checking out his new haircut. An oxplow is pulled by a Toyota pickup truck, a boy drinks raw goat milk from the teat, and a poisoned dead bear rots on the ground. (We also see a token boob shot. Remember, Boobs Sell Books.℠ To be fair, it’s balanced with two penis shots, one belonging to the perfect cross between Chris Robinson and Jesus.)
It’s a seamless vision, clad in cloth, of some people who don’t conform to the standards of the majority. Will you be curious to see this book? I don’t know. Will you?
Bottom Line: Happy Hippies, one possum at a time
Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.
Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.