Emma Orbach, an Oxford graduate who's been living off the grid for more than 13 years. Photo: Timothy Allen
These people have chosen to turn their backs on the luxury of the modern life at home to become at one with nature.
Whenever the nine to five grind becomes too much, some of us can’t help but dream of true isolation away from the rat race. For most of us that stops with our imaginations, however these people have chosen to turn their backs on the modern world to get in touch with nature, and live a simpler way of life. Along with their radical lifestyle decision, they have forfeited the many luxuries that come with a life as we know it. No air conditioning, no running hot water, and no high-speed internet connection. Could you do it?
Take a look at these powerful photos of people living off the grid, drawing on the survival skills of the past and perhaps inspiring others to do the same in the future.
1. Garth Bowles
Garth Bowles and his dog live in this permanent teepee house he built in Joshua Tree, California, within a 258-hectare property he acquired in the desert. Bowles gets his water from underground wells and power from solar panels. He welcomes visitors with open arms and accepts donations for food. He also calls himself “The Make-Do-King”. He tells photographer Rachel Bujalski,”Because if I don’t have something, I make-it-do.”
Pam Chapman, an artist, mother, builder, and the director of her community’s organic market, sits outside her self-built minimalistic home. Living off the grid, Chapman goes on daily treks to her nearby bathhouse or compost toilet. Since she doesn’t own a refrigerator, she keeps all her meats and cheeses outside to keep them cool. To read at night, she uses a small light by her bed which is charged with stored electricity generated by her solar panels.
Ramounat is known as the birthplace of back-to-the-land movement in France. Here, French photographer Antoine Bruy met Peter, a German man who has been living there for the last 30 years. He came originally with his wife and children, who left decades ago.
Peter has been living off the land for 30 years. Photos: Antoine Bruy
Another captivating photo captured by Bruy is this one of a composting toilet, built by an (unphotographed) English woman who goes by the name of Kate. Arriving by a donkey 20 years ago, Kate was hit by a car while she was bicycling and used the money from her settlement to buy this land near the village of Bayacas in Sierra Nevada, Spain. She has been building DIY living structures and living off the grid ever since.
English woman Kate has been building DIY structures in Spain for 20 years. Photo: Antoine Bruy
5. Emma Orbach
Intrigued by her back-story, photographer Timothy Allenjourneyed off the beaten track to meet Emma Orbach, a 59-year-old Oxford graduate who has been living in this isolated woodland for more than 13 years. Orbach keeps chickens and goats and grows an array of vegetables on a half-acre plot just outside her woodland. “Vogue asked me if they could come and do a fashion shoot here once,” she tells Allen. “At first, I thought to myself ‘Why not? That could be fun to see’, so I told them they could come as long as they didn’t bring any motorised vehicles onto my land. However, after a few weeks of discussion I ended up having to decline my offer because they were insisting on bringing portaloos for the models. Portaloos! Here! Can you imagine that?!”
Oxford graduate Emma Orbach lives in an isolated woodland. Photo:Timothy Allen
6. Jill Redwood
Proving that living off-grid can be achieved on our home turf, Jill Redwood lives in East Gippsland, Australia, where she built her house from salvaged sleeper offcuts and poles from the nearby forest almost 30 years ago. She prefers to be truly self-sufficient, having an orchard, a garden with vegetables and an animal farm, which provide almost everything she needs on a daily basis, without having to frequently drive one-and-a-half hours to the nearest town. In regards to energy and water supply, Redwood uses solar panels and a waterwheel. She lives off $80 per week and is surrounded only by animals. Redwood happily asks: “What more do I need?”