“It’s a good job the moon’s well up there,” the old man says. “I got room enough to swing a sledgehammer underneath him.” As peculiar as it is hypnotic, Philip Trevelyan’s 1971 oddity documents a bold British family living off the grid in the Sussex woods. On the outskirts of London, the elderly Mr. Page, along with his two sons and daughters, makes do with little. Lacking running water and electricity, their only links to “modern” technology are the steam tractors they repair to make a living and the rifles they use to shoot their next meal. Gripping his camera, Trevelyan steps uncomfortably close to these craftspeople, molding an intimate family portrait that is at once perplexed and awestruck.
The women knit and garden; the men rev their engines; and Mr. Page decries the urban London lifestyle. They seem at first naive about the ways of the world, but Trevelyan captures something poignant in their uncluttered harmony with the land. Birds and bugs swarm the farm. A rotting piano left outdoors sounds eerily beautiful. A kitten dances with the hands of Mr. Page’s son as he fantasizes about the moon, drawing its shape in the soil. Mr. Page scoffs at these imaginative ramblings, less because he’s uninterested in the heavens than because he sees more that’s worth cherishing in his wooded oasis. He may be right—and that’s what makes this bizarre biography so unforgettable.