Hard to Fathom

I have had a real appreciation for the Amish culture for many years, and have captured many images over the years of life in the rural countryside in my area. Generally speaking, the Amish are not very accepting of photography and Usually I try to use long lenses to keep from getting in their face and allowing them to go about their day-to-day life without intruding. The reason I share this is because both myself and my friend saw something the other week that stopped us in our tracks. We went to the mud sale to capture a few images of local culture and we were using long lenses to keep low-key, but as we stood there talking, we saw a group of people heading our way and every person was carrying a camera. The Amish seem to accept the fact that they are at a public venue and that cameras will be there and they may have their photo taken by someone in attendance so they basically ignore the occasional snapshot being taken. This group was different, as dad,mom,brother,son,daughter and everyone else in their entourage was toting a camera. We thought nothing of this till we started seeing the younger kids going right up to Amish children and shooting right in their face, and then to top it off they would show them the image on the lcd screen. The truly baffling thing was the kids seemed to enjoy seeing their picture on the screen and would pose even more. We saw a few older Amish teens stop and look at the fiasco, but did not stop the activity, so we were truly puzzled. They would use wide angles and be feet from them and laugh hysterically as each new frame was shot, and I just stood there thinking I wanted to smack the whole crew. I figured if it was not bothering them, then who was I to intervene, plus I realize we have the right to take photos, but this was about as obnoxious as anything I ever witnessed. My friend walked away at one point because his head was ready to explode, and after I asked one kid where they were from, his parents came over and wanted to be buddy buddy with me,but I basically ignored them as I was growing increasingly irritated with them. Anyway, here is another image from the auction,plus one of a portion of their crew shooting like a hollywood celebrity was passing by. Hopefully they wont be back to our state anytime soon,but i am not counting on that happening as I was sure I saw the main guy here last year,minus his family. They will probably come in a tour bus next year with the relatives.

8 responses to “Hard to Fathom

  1. As you know, we own a bed and breakfast. I always caution guests not to take pictures of the Amish – especially their faces. Yet almost every store that they go in boasts close-up shots – either in books or on postcards. I often ask my guests to imagine their lives being interrupted by people trying to take their picture – while hurrying through the grocery store or going to work. How would they feel if someone were waiting at every turn in the road or public place to push a camera in their face? At best, it is brazenly rude and shows very little respect. This is not Williamsburg; they are not actors posing. There are real people with feelings, just going about their business. I often admire their patience with the rest of the world. If it were me, I’d be tempted to tear the camera out of their hand.

  2. I truely admire your respect for the Amish culture with your photograghy. While you and your friend were baffled at what was going on with those photograghers, the situation I don’t find baffling at all. While those photograghers may have been ignorant or just plain disrespectful of Amish Culture rules, the Amish are just human too. These children were proably enjoying having there pictures and seeing it on the LCD screen because it was some fun they never had before. Somebody just brought them some grest entertainment for them. The teens that did not step in to stop this also did not come as a suprise to me either. Most teen are not guardians of the church rules.

    • While I live amongst this community, I am not an expert on their ways. I find myself confused many times by what I see and interactions I have at times. Sometimes I question taking photos and other times I feel I am documenting a special way of life that I admire,so I just try to give them space. I agree they are human too and sometimes I find myself placing them above myself because of their beliefs,but they have the same problems the regular society has in many areas.As I get older I find myself wanting simplicity for my sanity, and observing their lifestyle leaves me wondering what it might be like to live that way. thanks for your comments

  3. I’m with you Donald! I lived most of my life in Northwest NJ and used to go to Amish country farms. Being a photographer I never shot I single frame of them because I felt that respect begets more respect. Times have changed now, you have the super telephoto lenses etc. Everybody and their friends have cameras now!
    Thank you for being respectful and a good photographer, you gave me to see what I didn’t put in a photo. 🙂

  4. Reese, I commend you for your sensitivity to the Amish and their culture. In case you ever want to take a picture of me, you can be right in my face and I will sign it for you! – Summers

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