This blog first appeared on Amish Wisdom September 2015
Let’s face it. If you love reading about the Amish, then you most likely love looking at pictures of them. We all know that the Amish don’t like to have their picture taken. I’ve heard the reasoning for this part of their Ordnung, that it’s vain and they consider photographs to be a graven image. But after spending a week living with the Amish, I learned a bit more.
On my trip, I had opportunities that some can only dream about. I arrived in Lancaster and went directly to my Amish friend’s house. For the next six days we visited, canned, milked, and held book signings at markets. It was a fantastic time. But it was very understated. On my last day in Lancaster, Sadie took me to Kitchen Kettle Village to talk to the stores that sell books there. Tourists were out in full swing. It was a Saturday after all. I had been hanging out and running around with Amish women all week, but this was the first time that I noticed the stares and pointing, the whispers and the barely-veiled intentions to photograph. It saddened and angered me.
Imagine you’re walking down the street and someone snaps off a picture of you. What would you do? Would you enjoy that? This photographer is a stranger to you and you have no idea what they’re going to do with the picture. I would imagine that most of us would hate that.
What if someone pulled up and took a picture of your laundry? Weird, huh? (I say this even though pictures of Amish laundry lines are some of my favorite, but it’s still peculiar.)
Sadie and I talked about it and the Amish for the most part have gotten used to Englishers taking pictures of them without their consent. Not that it makes it all right to do so. But they abhor when people take pictures and such on Sunday when the district has gathered for church. This is a sacred time for them and should be treated as such by everyone.
I had so many great experiences while I was in Lancaster. We had a sisters’ day, visited a schoolhouse, helped with two separate milkings at a dairy farm, shopped, and attended a benefit auction. I had plenty of opportunities to snap off a pic here and there, fabulous photos of brightly dressed Amish youth and families, but I just couldn’t do it. I have more respect for them than that.
See, I found friends in Lancaster County. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt them, not even with charming laundry on the line or a horse and buggy clip-clopping by. Most of my memories are stored in my own brain for me to take out and remember from time to time. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t take pictures of other things while I was there.
Here are a few photos I did take while I was in Lancaster. It was a vacation for me after all. A working one. But as we visit with the Amish, a balance needs to be found. A balance between the memories we should keep in our minds and hearts and the ones we should commit to film.
To see the complete album of my trip CLICK HERE