Vermont Hippies: Photographs by Peter Simon and Rebecca Lepkoff, an exhibit of some forty photographs of southern Vermont will be on view at the Vermont Center for Photography, 49 Flat Street, Brattleboro, July 2 to August 1. Since the 1930s Vermont has been a magnet for urban émigrés searching for their own Edens. During the 1960s and 70s, veterans of the peace and civil rights movements settled into nontraditional households. Outwardly, they were distinguished from their Vermont neighbors by their progressive views, long hair, and unconventional clothing. The repercussions of this influx of counter-culture is still strongly felt in Vermont today, even thought the photographs make it look like so long ago. Suzanne Flynt, a VCP Board Member said, “This exhibition will make you smile, or cringe, or even laugh out loud.”
In his important collection of anthropological photography, Robert Gardner made clear the connection between the ethnographer’s record of life in western Papua or Ethiopia and the photojournalist’s observation of downtown Barcelona or Dallas. Alen MacWeeney’s Irish Travellers, Tinkers No More is one further document in this fluid branch of study. The travellers were and still are a constant presence in Ireland, where MacWeeney was born and raised, although, at least in the 1960’s when these photographs were made, a largely unseen one—this is, on purpose. A professional need, it seems, sucked Alen MacWeeney into their society, and he remained, to observe and experience it in depth. Now, after some forty years, this experience has been made public.
In posterity Scott Nearing (1883-1983) has led a double life of sorts. In the rural areas of southern Vermont and coastal Maine, where he spent the second half of his century, a virtual cult surrounds his memory and that of his wife Helen, as pioneers of the Back-to-the-Land Movement, which was decisively influenced by their book, Living the Good Life, and its sequels. These remain popular with even the most suburban-minded second home buyers as guides to country living. While the movement flourished most purely and most intensely in the 1960’s and 1970’s, it continues today, focused around the environmental movement, and exerts a significant influence on at least certain aspects of how many of us live, even in places like Cambridge, Park Slope, or here in Williamstown. The Nearings’ teachings about simple, self-sufficient living in rural surroundings and their ideals are perpetuated by The Good Life Center at Forest Farm in Harborside, Maine, their last home.