Haunting Photos of Hermits in the Woods Highlight Crisis of Civilization

April 8, 2016 at 2:53 pm

living-in-the-wild-escape-danila-tkachenko-9A Russian photographer has captured the images and stories of people who find a life of isolation in the wilderness preferable to the madness of society. The story of his work is making its way around the internet again this month.




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“I was traveling in search for people who have decided to escape from social life and live all alone in the wild nature, far away from any villages, towns or other people,” Danila Tkachenko says on his website.

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“The main characters of my project violate social standards for different reasons. By a complete withdrawal from society they go to live alone in the wild nature, gradually dissolving in it and losing their social identity.”

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“While exploring their experience, it is important for me to understand if one is able to break free from social dependence and get away from the public to the subjective – and thus, to make a step towards oneself.”

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“I am concerned about the issue of internal freedom in the modern society: is it at all reachable, when you’re surrounded by social framework all the time?”

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“School, work, family – once in this cycle, you are a prisoner of your own position, and have to do what you’re supposed to. You should be pragmatic and strong, or become an outcast or a lunatic. How to remain yourself in the midst of this?”

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“I grew up in the heart of the big city, but I’ve always been drawn to wildlife – for me it’s a place where I can hide and feel the real me, my true self, out of the social context.”

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Tkachenko’s 120-page photo-book titled Escape – which includes quotes from the Russian and Ukrainian “Escapers” – begins with the following quote:

“Man does not need society at all, it’s the society that needs man. Society is a forced measure of protection and survival. Unlike a gregarious animal, man must live alone – in nature among animals, plants and in contact with them.”~ Andrey Tarkovsky.




Let’s Go ‘Into the Wild’ Together

I couldn’t disagree with Tkachenko‘s assessment more – that one must live the life of a hermit to find one’s self, one’s true nature. We’re social creatures by nature, aren’t we? Prisoners say solitary confinement is the worst punishment they could imagine, and babies die when left untouched in incubators.

Even Christopher McCandless – who decided he preferred being alone in the wilderness to feeling alone and out of place in cities and suburbs – admitted loneliness was not ideal. Shortly before he died alone on a bus in Alaska, he wrote in his diary – “HAPPINESS IS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED.”

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While I have nothing but respect for these brave deserters of civilization, I find their hermitage extremely depressing. It is a sad commentary on the state of society, that humans would rather live in painful isolation than participate in the insanity of the system they were born into.

I hope one day there will be enough of us fed up that we can escape “Into the Wild together and learn to live in harmony. We did it for 2 million years before the advent of agriculture. Let’s try to make society a desirable place to live again.

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