Almost Heaven
Project info

The New Vrindaban is a Krishna community in the pastoral hills of Appalachia, and is the vision of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual leader of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. One of Prabhupada’s dreams was to establish a holy pilgrimage site in North America. The New Vrindaban in West Virginia is the realization of that dream. It was conceived to echo Vrindaban, India. According to many Hindu religions, Vrindaban in India is where Krishna took human form and the devotees of the Krishna faith understand it to be the equivalent of Heaven on Earth.

I began photographing the New Vrindaban community in order to explore a part of my home in Appalachia that was unfamiliar to me. Through many visits, conversations and experiences I found a multinational group living together in an attempt to create a utopian society based in Krishna Consciousness ideals. Some of the residents are simply passing through on a spiritual quest and some have been there for decades completely devoted to the community and upkeep of the grounds, which have become an extravagant memorial to their spiritual leader Prabhupada.

Not all of the residents at New Vrindaban are transplants from distant locations; some are originally from the surrounding area and have a similar upbringing to other Appalachians such as myself. The culture at New Vrindaban, though at odds with the traditional context of Appalachia, does not exist in a vacuum. For example seeing traditional Krishna robes paired with steel-toed boots and blue-collar workwear is common. These types of juxtapositions between familiar cultural markers and the anomalous is what I find so intriguing and pleasantly jarring.