Photographs of the Amish community often seem like a depiction of days bygone – the severe, old fashioned clothing and head gear, the horse drawn carts, the simple, rustic lifestyle… the Amish community can in fact make for some very beautiful and interesting photos. However we need to understand the beliefs of the Amish in general and their attitude towards photography in particular, before we start to click at will.
Amish religious beliefs and attitude to technology
The Amish believe in simple, plain living that is conservative in the extreme. The Amish communities are typically deeply religious. They don modest, pain garb, because anything that points to vanity is frowned upon. The old fashioned outfits and the headgear are meant to encourage modesty and help a person eschew personal vanity.
The Amish usually pursue simple occupations like farming, wood work and carpentry and so on; and they choose to do this will as little reliance upon mechanization as possible. Horses may still be used to till the land and to get from one to another place; carpentry is also still largely done by hand, using the same tools and methods as the ones used 100 years ago.
Amish attitudes towards photography
The Amish attitude to photography is similarly frowned on and prohibited because of the central importance of the family unit. Individuality, pride and vanity threaten the basic family structure and communal harmony; so anything that is viewed as a promoting that pride and individuality is disapproved of.
As any of us would resent being photographed without consent, so it is with the Amish. None of us would tolerate having our doors knocked upon so that strangers may take our photos. Given the Amish, their lifestyle and their beliefs, such behavior may be even more intolerable to them.
Amish photography dos and don’ts
So, if you’re planning to visit an Amish community or settlement and would like to take back photos of your experiences there, remember to follow some etiquette so as not to cause offence. The Amish typically frown on personal photos; and even approaching them to request personal photos may be considered rude.
If you like, you could try asking respectfully whether you can photograph their homes, the horse drawn buggies and farms. Also if you decide to ask for permission to take photos, it would be best to approach an adult male member for permission because of the social hierarchies that exist within the community. It may also be a good idea to patronize local Amish owned enterprises or businesses.