Coffee cup full, music blaring, these type of mini road trips give my brain a jolt. The Amish countryside on a crisp winter day, I scan the horizon for a glimpse into a different world.
Driving through Middlefield, the 4th largest Amish settlement in the world, you see the numerous farms and fine examples of Amish craft and build. The horse and buggies ubiquitous. The Amish community remains a foreign concept to me; which triggers my imagination. The simple living, full of hard work and tradition, refreshes my hectic mind.
The photographer in me wants to soak up all the tradition and heritage through my lens. I drive the winding back roads and see an amazing scene. 12 Amish children playing backyard baseball in a wide open grassy field. The sunlight bathes the scene in an wondrous glow. The boys wear plain shirts with suspenders and all dress the same. The girls wear long dresses with aprons. Neither outfit draws any attention to ones self, as the Amish strongly believe that a persons qualities are more important than appearance.
I drove by the field and had conflicting feelings. I was ecstatic to be presented with an incredible natural scene, filled with so much joy. I then had a sinking thought;
“Would I want a stranger taking a photo of my children? Were the parents around to ask permission? What Amish religious factors come into play when photographing? ”
After I read conflicting research on the subject, I was still looking for a consistent answer. Holding humility as a core value, as well as dissuading individuality, the Amish do not like being photographed. They believe the Biblical commandment “Thou shalt not make unto thyself a graven image.” I know photographers who have gotten permission to take distant photos where the figure cannot be recognized. Amish children on their own presented its own set of challenges.
In the end, I decided against taking the photo. I wanted to respect the Amish culture. Without parents around, I felt as it may have been inappropriate and intrusive. I am disappointed I missed a great photo opportunity, although still believe I made the right choice.
I started a lively debate within my Photo Society with the question, “Ethically, would you comfortable taking the photo?”
Where do you come out on this?