Local photographer, Pike Falls community celebrated


JAMAICA -- Rebecca Lepkoff recalled her first days visiting Pike Falls of Jamaica.

"I met a lot of people around that swimming hole, where we all gathered," she said. "I was always interested in people. I photographed people in areas that were interesting to me."

Lepkoff's 98th birthday is coming up and there will be a party. Save the date: Monday, Aug. 4.

Starting at 4 p.m., cake will be served at the Town Hall. Attendees will then head over to the Jamaica Historical Society for a presentation on Pike Falls and Lepkoff's photography narrated by Greg Joly.

"The event is also to come together and share any remembrances, to bring forward any family relics and to bring to light any historical objects that may be of interest to us," said Joly, who recently joined the Historical Society. "We're always interested in what people might bring that may not have seen the light of day in some time."

The Historical Society will have an exhibit of Lepkoff's original photographs from the Pike Falls region in the 1950s. Items from the Nearings family will also be on display.

The Nearings were a couple that had moved into that area. They were attracted to values associated with socialism and promoted the idea of living off the land.

Lepkoff and her husband Gene stayed in a house not too far from the Nearings when they first came to Jamaica.

"I got to know them pretty well," Lepkoff said. "They had interesting ideas about lifestyle. They attracted people and wanted people to settle near them."

The Nearings tended to serve a lot of fruit at meals. Sometimes, guests were not thrilled about the lack of other types of food, Lepkoff noted.

"They had a vegetable garden that they picked vegetables from," she said. "It was healthy food. Whether the people cared for it or not, they did."

There are photographs taken by Lepkoff of Scott Nearing in his garden. She also captured Scott and his wife Helen holding a bouquet of flowers.

"They used to plant flowers for families and give little bouquets to the kids. He was a charming man and his wife used to sing songs," said Lepkoff. "She was trained as a singer in Europe."

Some photographs from Lepkoff's book "Almost Utopia: Residents and Radicals of Pike Falls, Vermont 1950" published by Vermont Historical Society in 2008 will be shown at the exhibit. Joly had provided text for the book.

According to Joly, when Scott Nearing was at the University of Pennsylvania, he received a doctorate in economics.

"They said it was fine for him to do whatever he wanted in economics except for the distribution of wealth," Joly said. "So that's what he did his dissertation on. By 1915, he was questioning the morality and need for child labor and lost his teaching position there."

Around 1932, Scott and Helen had moved to Jamaica, where Lepkoff would eventually spend summers. For the rest of the year, Lepkoff lived in New York City, which she said is her special place.

Lepkoff always remains interested in ongoing changes in certain neighborhoods of the city. She was born in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

"The 3rd Avenue L (train stop) is a particularly famous place," she said. "I was interested in city life and interested in the streets. In order to capture it visually, you needed a camera. So I got a camera. When I walked around in the streets, I took pictures of what I was interested in. It just made sense to take pictures of what you were looking at so you can show what you're talking about."

Eventually, Lepkoff and her husband moved to Townshend full time. Her work is still on display at museums around the city.

Lepkoff's advice to aspiring photographers is to keep doing it. She says they should have an idea of why they're interested in a particular subject with reasons why others should be.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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