Chapter Fifteen-- Retreating to Utopia: Color Images, Added Illustrations, and Outtakes.
Outside the Gates of Eden: The Dream of America from Hiroshima to Now
Lisa Law, Rainbow, New Buffalo Commune. Photograph copyright Lisa Law
Photographer Lisa Law was perhaps the most prolific and talented photographer to record the counterculture, and she was, and is, also a lifelong participant. She was in the Haight at its height; she worked with the Hog Farm; she photographed at Woodstock; she lived at New Buffalo commune. Her archive is and will be an important, even critical one for historians of the 20th century.
Stephen Gaskin was the leader of the extensive commune known as The Farm, which began in the Bay Area and then mass-migrated to a site in Tennessee, where it was a prominent feature in the counterculture commune movement until it faced a large-scale exodus and was largely abandoned. Recently, two sisters who were raised on The Farm and then left with their family in the exodus, made an affecting independent film that includes invaluable archival footage: American Commune.
With significant debt, and plagued by conflicts over Gaskin's leadership and accusations of financial favoritism, something over a thousand commune residents abandoned the commune, and event known as "The Exodus." After retrenching to a population of under 200 on the original 1,800 acres, the commune managed to sustain itself into the 21st century. Today it presents itself as a sort of eco-counterculture-tourism site, offering residencies, retreats and workshops, and marketing a romanticized vision of the back-to-the-land movement, without infant and child deaths, disease, dissension, or poverty. The Kodachrome is scratched, however; in addition to "green living" products and publications, the commune also sells t-shirts, mugs, tote bags and hoodies. On its website, many links are dead, and one, promising a blog about everyday life on the farm, links instead-- as of April, 1914-- to a payday loan site.