culture | 12.19.2019

Taylor Camp Is The Tropical Ocean-utopia Without Bills, Rules or Politics

Taylor Camp was a ruleless tropical utopia, with no government, television or politics. Most people didn’t even wear clothes.

The 1960’s is remembered as a lightning-rod decade for revolutionary change. But when some couldn’t find peace in the larger framework of society, they broke off from the herd to build a better life, with their own rules and ideals.

One such landing point for these ideals was a place called Taylor Camp. Named after the land’s owner, Howard Taylor (brother of actress, Elizabeth Taylor), who invited a group of nomadic hippies to live on his land with him, the camp had the quality of paradise.

Sitting ocean-front in Hawaii, Taylor Camp was the manifestation of thirteen hippies, who sought refuge from the violence and turmoil of the American Heartland, and decided to establish a society diametrically opposite from the one they had just left. No rules governed Taylor Camp. Local politics was a nonstarter; most didn’t even wear clothes.

Photo by: John Wehrheim

Their plan wasn’t necessarily concrete: they just sought out the most remote piece of land they could find in Hawaii and set up wooden tree-houses and hand-built cabins to live out of. If they wanted food, they would often just scavenge or fish. For the most part, they just smoked weed and chilled. For the residents of Taylor Camp, it was idyllic.

Word spread of the liberating way of life at Taylor Camp, and people started flocking to the island utopia. Soon there were somewhere in the range of 120 residents; all determined to live out the hippy Pura Vida that most in New York and California could only dream of. One photographer, John Wehrheim, documented the experiment in a 1970 photo-book simply entitled “Taylor Camp.”

In 1977, unfortunately, Taylor Camp was finally shut down by the government, which was establishing a State Park on the land. But Wehrheim’s ethereal photos live on, captivating viewers with the promise of Utopia.

Photo by: John Wehrheim

While most took advantage of Taylor Camp’s “clothing optional” policies, residents say that the lack of garments was not meant to be sexual, just natural.

Photo by: John Wehrheim

Residents aimed to shed the conventions and constructs of their old lives—the materialism and consumerism of American society were done away with.

Photo by: John Wehrheim

Taylor Camp wasn’t home to any television—in fact, they didn’t even have electricity. They found entertainment in music, crafts and each other.

Photo by: John Wehrheim

Many in Taylor Camp were previously involved in the anti-war movement. When establishing peace didn’t seem like it was an option, they opted for isolation.

Photo by: John Wehrheim

A number of Vietnam veterans also flocked to Taylor Camp, disturbed by the reality of war and in search of a more gentle way of life.

Photo by: John Wehrheim

Many of the beach-houses in Taylor Camp were hand-made with bamboo, driftwood, and other recycled materials.

Photo by: John Wehrheim

Some raised entire families in Taylor Camp. While the American heartland offered violence and conflict, children in Taylor Camp were unburdened by this harsh reality.

For all the residents of Taylor Camp, their new society was a dream come to life, the ultimate utopia.

Wehrheim remembers Taylor Camp as “the best days of our lives.”

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