Off The Grid

Photographer Keliy Anderson-Staley grew up in a log cabin in Maine as part of a community who live ‘off the grid’. This means no electricity, no plumbing, and no phone lines; a community that’s chosen to disconnect entirely from America’s energy resources in an attempt to escape certain aspects of the modern world that they otherwise find suffocating. It’s pretty much an extreme version of walking out the room every time X Factor comes on tv because you don’t give a shit about it. Now you can’t crack jokes with other hillside grazers of culture, but at least you have piece of mind that you’ll never have to look into Louis Walsh’s puny little eyes again.

With an invaluable insight into these communities, Keliy returned to photograph various families and their homes which she says are their masterpieces- “improvised and idiosyncratic, developed over many years”.  If you were expecting portraits of folks bathed in candlelight, writing sonnets with plume pens, you may be disappointed. Keliy was adamant she would not over-romanticize this way of living and instead highlight the daily struggles involved. She’s kindly explained the stories behind some of her photos for Platform to give us an insight into the different homes she’s come across - sort of like Cribs, but with a power cut.

This is the house I grew up in. It started out as a two story 30×30 log cabin, but has grown over the last 30 years.  The sunroom on the front of the building was made solely with found windows and is the most recent addition. My father spends a good part of the winter in this small room working around a small wood stove. Barely visible in this photograph is the small windmill on the roof of the cabin, which, along with the solar panels just below the tin roof, generates enough energy to power a few small electrical devices including a laptop. We had none of these amenities when I was growing up. The near impossibility of taking a hot shower in the winter drove me to my friend’s houses many nights when I was a teenager.

The Knapps live in a single room cabin, but have managed to carve distinct spaces out of their home. They are raising two young children and have been off the grid for almost a decade. Before my father built an addition on our cabin so I could have my own room separate from my three siblings, I often found it hard to have any sort of privacy.

This photograph is taken during Maine’s notorious “mud season” when the winter thaws make dirt roads nearly impassable for vehicles. Many of the families I’ve photographed live quite far in the woods and can only access their homes via long dirt roads and driveways. For 4 or 5 months driving up these roads is usually impossible.

This tent belongs to Duane Hanson. He, his partner Sally and his three sons set up camp in a field near the Common Ground Fair for 5 days every year where they sell handmade ash baskets and knives at this fair for organic farmers. They live off the grid near the Canadian border, where they harvest ice in the winter from the pond for their icehouse, grow their own food and hunt.

This lodge is at a school that teaches survival skills and techniques for living off the land. They also promote a number of spiritual exercises such as sweat lodges and vision quests based in Native American tradition. Despite its seemingly small size, it is actually quite spacious inside, and surprisingly warm and cosy.

This is the Landry’s outhouse, they’ve lived off the grid since the late seventies. This has been the site of a few accidents—a peat moss fire nearly burned it down and a dog once fell into the pit and had to be rescued.

This outhouse sits next to an old school bus that the owner made into a home by rebuilding the interior. He is a Vietnam vet who says he first got interested in building while constructing a number of impromptu shelters during the war.

I took this image right after a heavy rainstorm in late August.  This tree at the Corbin’s no longer exists; about a year after I made this image, the tree was hit by lighting and burned to the ground. The fire spread a bit and burned the clothesline as well as an old couch that had been in the yard.

Katrina is the youngest of four kids and she is home-schooled by her parents.  Both of Katrina’s parents grew up in Brooklyn, but for a variety of religious and personal reasons, they moved off the grid in the seventies.

This kitchen is a round adobe structure made entirely of recycled or found supplies.  Nearby is a huge a-frame structure that houses a massive bank of solar panels and batteries to store the energy.

Steve and Mara, who are in their thirties, live with their four boys in this octagonal log cabin that they built themselves in the woods of western Maine. They have a big organic garden, and they make a living selling hand-made pottery and ceramic drums.

Loading previews