Scott Nearing by Lepkoff

Scott Nearing

Helen Nearing by Lepkoff

Helen Nearing

Rebecca Lepkoff's Photos: "Residents & Radicals" in Vermont, 1950

The Vermont Center for Photography in Brattleboro presents "Almost Utopia: Photographs by Rebecca Lepkoff" from August 1 through September 28. The opening reception for the exhibit is on August 1, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., during Brattleboro's monthly first-Friday Gallery Walk.

"Almost Utopia" features nearly 60 of Lepkoff's black-and-white photographs, which capture native Vermonters and people "from away" at work and play during the summer of 1950. The exhibit corresponds with the release of the Vermont Historical Society's recently published book, Almost Utopia: The Residents and Radicals of Pikes Falls, Vermont, 1950, which will be available at the opening reception.

Rebecca Lepkoff and historian Greg Joly, who wrote the text accompanying the photographs, will be on hand to sign books. Joly, a resident of Jamaica, has written a background essay that places the people, the community, and the photographs in the larger context of state and national history.

In 1950, Rebecca Lepkoff and her husband Gene had recently bought land in Jamaica. Rebecca, who was 34 at the time, had already made a name for herself as a member of the Photo League, which viewed photography as a tool for social change. Her photographs of Manhattan's Lower East Side in the 1930s and '40s were already becoming renowned.

The Lepkoffs were drawn to the communitarian homesteaders who populated the Pikes Falls area of Jamaica, clustered near Scott and Helen Nearing, who would later become a huge inspiration to back-to-the-landers throughout Vermont and around the country. The Nearings published Living the Good Life in 1954, chronicling their homesteading experiences in Vermont, and it quickly became a classic. The Nearings have been credited with founding the organic food movement in the U.S. and were also the inspiration for the many communes that sprang up in the northeast in the 1960s and 1970s.

Lepkoff's intimate images are the work of an artist at the peak of her craft, and they portray rural Vermont at a moment in time just before paved roads and the influx of vacationers that would alter its character forever.

Now 92-years-old, Lepkoff spends her time between Vermont and New York City. Her recently published book, Life on the Lower East Side, chronicles the people and the architecture of the city in the 1930s and 1940s. Her work is held in many museums and private collections. She is represented by the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York.

This exhibit is made possible by the Vermont Historical Society and is generously sponsored by Merchants Bank of Brattleboro.

The Vermont Center for Photography, a nonprofit gallery featuring fine art photography, was founded in 1998 and represents photographers from Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York, promoting a regional community of photographers. The Gallery is located at 49 Flat Street next to the parking garage in downtown Brattleboro.

Gallery hours are Friday, 2 to 7 pm; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 pm; or by appointment. For directions or information, please call 802-251-6051 or visit the website at��

Copyright 2008, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont

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