Exhibitions in Prague – John Wehrheim: Paradise Lost Photography

Prague City Gallery on October 12 started the European premiere of the Taylor Camp collection of photographs at the Stone Bell House on Old Town Square.

Visitors have the opportunity to see the life in a Hawaiian community that had no laws or rules, yet was united by a desire for freedom.

John Wehrheim has won two Emmy Awards for his collection of photographs and documentary film on Bhutan.

“Diverse subcultures are an essential part of any democratic society. This important American photographer will be presented in the Czech Republic for the first time. Through its focus on the hippie movement, the exhibition also aims at raising awareness of the need to strengthen civil society,” says Martin Řezníček, one of the three exhibition curators.

“The life for people at Taylor Camp represented going beyond utopia – living in harmony with nature with a sense of freedom, tolerance and sustainability, which are themes that are gaining in importance and relevance today,” adds the exhibition curator Adam Ligas.

Since its destruction by government officials in 1977, the Taylor Camp settlement on the Hawaiian island of Kauai has become a social phenomenon and, like the famous Woodstock festival, a memento of its time – the height of the hippie movement.

The story of the photographs began in the turbulent year of 1969, when the demonstrations of young people on the West Coast of the USA, mainly advocating for an end to the war in Vietnam, were at their peak. Violence was escalating and the social situation was so tense that the students were offered only two options – either pick up a gun or leave.

At that time, Howard Taylor, brother of actress Elizabeth Taylor, owned seven acres of land on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. When he heard that thirteen young people had been arrested for vagrancy on the island, he decided to help them by bailing them out and offering to set up camp on his lucrative oceanfront land.

Mainland and people from the whole spectrum of society began to flock to it – from war veterans to families with children to young students. But they all had one thing in common – a desire for freedom. According to Wehrheim, this was what kept a good and cohesive atmosphere in the camp without any written ordinances.

“Wehrheim has chronicled an era that was launched by anti-war protests and movement seeking peace and a more socially just, racially equal society from a somewhat different perspective,” says Magdalena Juříková, Director of Prague City Gallery.

When Wehrheim first entered Taylor Camp with a camera in 1971, its residents were shy.

But through his photographs he slowly built trust in his relationship with them. They began inviting him into their homes in trees, and the relaxed atmosphere allowed him to capture camp life as it really was – a slow dream without rules, in harmony with nature. However, according to Wehrheim, the romantic idealism was disrupted by problems with drugs, alcohol and sexual harassment.

As part of the photographic exhibition Paradise Lost, visitors can see the documentary film The Edge of Paradise, which focuses on the Taylor Camp phenomenon.

The exhibition will run through 8 January 2023. Visitors can see it from 10 am to 8 pm every day except for Monday.

Entrance Fee: CZK 150 full (adults) / CZK 60 discounted (students) / CZK 20 seniors

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