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A Trip To Upstate New York

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German-American filmmaker Evan Spitzer went on a trip to upstate New York where he stayed with a family living in the woods and documented their alternative and off-the-grid lifestyle. In addition to capturing photos of their day-to-day lives, Spitzer alongside his partner Kayla Reopelle shot an experimental ethnographic film about the experience called ‘In Praise of Shadows’, which was shown at the International Ethnographic Film Festival of Quebec and the 2015 Iowa City International Documentary Film Festival. Here are some photographs that show a simple life surrounded by nature…

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[4:30 am] – Tony swings open the wood burning stove’s door. After scooping out a shovel full of glowing embers, he ventures back into the fresh November air and climbs the steady slope back to the upper floor of the house. With the coals from below, he then stokes the smaller kitchen stove with fresh wood to prepare the morning tea and keep the sleeping area warm for Leah-Bella and Gwen, who are rising now as well.

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[6:30 am] – As the sun begins to beam into the house and fill in the darkness surrounding the property Gwen wakes up the Guinea Fowl as Tony fills a pot of water for the day’s lunch.

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[7:15 am] – Tony and Gwen take a break to enjoy morning tea as Leah-Bella wakes up and feeds Primrose, the cat, some morning milk.

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[7:35 am] – The family brushes their teeth and Tony begins to cook breakfast. Gwen takes a wheelbarrow to retrieve the day‘s firewood followed by a trail of Guinea Fowl.

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[8:20 am] – Leah-Bella sets the table and assigns everyone to sing Bob Dylan songs in lieu of grace before their hearty breakfast.

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[9:55 am] – Breakfast is rounded off with a cup of tea and a scone as Gwen and Leah-Bella put the cleaned dishes away. Leah-Bella nicks her finger on a fork and Gwen applies a kiss and band-aid.

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[10:20 am] – A wind up radio is set to a local jazz station as a lazy mid-morning begins.

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[11:30 am] – Leah-Bella changes her outfit once more as the family prepares to move downstairs to begin the day’s work.

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[11:43 am] – Tony sets up the workshop downstairs and begins to work on a set of railings for a local winery that Gwen and he are creating.

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Leah-Bella helps to check the spacing regulations as Gwen and Tony prepare to add a new element.

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Tony ignites the forge.

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As Tony and Gwen begin to hammer the steel into shape, Leah-Bella rolls some art of her own.

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[3:35 pm] – The sun begins to wane as the family cleans up after a long day of hammering, welding, and painting.

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[4:10 pm] – Tony and Gwen round up the Guinea Fowl and corral them back into their little house.

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[4:31 pm] – The sun sets on the Crow’s Nest Artists

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[8:25 pm] – Without the everpresence of electric lightbulbs, after four hours of darkness, the evening feels very late. Teeth are brushed and it’s time for a bedtime story. Tonight: Meet Kirsten (American Girl 1854)

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[09:43 pm] – Tony finishes one last chore for the day, cleaning the dishes while Gwen has now switched to her own book, reading while Leah-Bella sleeps soundly.

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[9:58 pm] – With a final blowing out the last candle, Tony, Gwen, and Leah-Bella drift off into sleep in the warmth of the freshly stocked stove. Though the harsh November winds warn of the coming winter, the family sleeps soundly after another day of work and play.

All images © Evan Spitzer