Exhibitions in Prague – John Wehrheim: Paradise Lost Photography

On October 12, the City of Prague Gallery launched the European premiere of the Camp Taylor Photograph Collection at the Stone Bell House in Old Town Square.

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

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

“The various subcultures are an essential element of any democratic society. This important American photographer will be presented for the first time in the Czech Republic. By focusing on the hippie movement, the exhibition also aims to raise awareness of the need to strengthen civil society,” explains Martin Řezníček, one of the three curators of the exhibition.

“People’s lives 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 growing in importance and relevance today. “, adds the curator of the exhibition Adam Ligas.

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

The story of the photographs begins in 1969, a turbulent year, when youth protests on the West Coast of the United States, mostly advocating an end to the war in Vietnam, were at their peak. The violence escalated and the social situation was so tense that the students had only two options: either take 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 learned that thirteen young people had been arrested for vagrancy on the island, he decided to help them by bailing them out and offering them to settle on his lucrative seaside land.

The mainland and people from all walks of society began to flock there – from veterans to families with children to young students. But they all had one thing in common: a desire for freedom. According to Wehrheim, this is what kept a good, consistent atmosphere in the camp without any written orders.

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

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

But through his photographs, he slowly built trust in his relationship with them. They began to invite him into their treehouses, and the relaxed atmosphere allowed him to capture camp life as it truly was – a slow-moving dream with no rules, in harmony with nature. However, according to Wehrheim, romantic idealism was disrupted by problems with drugs, alcohol, and sexual harassment.

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

The exposure will run until January 8, 2023. Visitors can view it from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day except Monday.

Entrance fee: 150 CZK full (adults) / 60 CZK reduced (students) / 20 CZK seniors

Berta D. Wells