A curious tale spun from the life of mysterious hermit Joseph Plummer, who lived in the woods of central New Hampshire in the late 1700s. Two centuries later an unsuspecting man purchased the mythical loner’s land and built a hideaway cabin for himself – only to discover the legend of Joseph lurking deep in the seclusion of the forest. This atmospheric photobook explores our human desire to escape and find peaceful solitude, far from the burdens and apparatus of modern society.
Exploring themes of history, place and mythology, Amani Willett’s photographs track the hermit’s overgrown trail through the land his family now owns. Willett’s father, unaware of the reclusive man who roamed the area nearly 200 years before him, acquired the deed 40 years ago with the intention of establishing a rustic retreat.
Upon learning of Plummer’s existence, Willett endeavoured to photograph a fragmented narrative amidst the same landscape he once inhabited. He scoured local archives to find first-hand written accounts describing the hermit’s character, as well as bona fide personal effects which appear in the book. Adding to the visual journey are historical portrait and landscape images from the region that inspired Willett’s physical intervention in the form of destructive applique and collage.
The resulting work mirrors the past while keeping Plummer’s unknowable history intact. It also reveals how the hermit’s existence still resonates today – not only as a constant counterpoint to our fast-paced, technology-driven times – but in conjuring the same romanticised allure that tempts new generations to also venture off-grid.
About the Author
Based in Brooklyn NY, Amani Willett‘s photography is driven by conceptual ideas surrounding family, history, memory, and the social environment. His first monograph, Disquiet, (Damiani, 2013) – a meditation on starting a family in a time of social unrest and uncertainty in America – was selected as one of the best books of the year by PDN, Photo Eye (Todd Hido) and Conscientious (Joerg Colberg). Willett’s photographs feature in the books Bystander: A history of Street Photography (2017 edition, Laurence King Publishing), Street Photography Now (Thames and Hudson), New York: In Color(Abrams) and in a wide range of publications including American Photography, Newsweek, Harper’s and The New York Times. Amani completed an MFA in Photography, Video and Related Media from the School of Visual Arts, NY in 2012.