An episode of Nat Geo’s “Meet The Hutterites” recently featured a cast member who received some flak from the colony over his hobby of photography. I think the elders thought it was a frivolous waste of time. But that plot-line raised some interesting issues. As we’ve discussed here before there are wide variations among the “plain people” in comfort level over photography. The most conservative Old Order Amish cite strong religious reasons for not wanting to be photographed. They point to a verse in Exodus 20:4 “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath” Many Amish cite that verse as the theological underpinning for not allowing themselves to be photographed. Others have vanity issues, believing that being photographed is prideful or frivolous. And still other more progressive Amish don’t seem to object at all to being photographed.
Allwood Audubon Center and Farm in Montgomery County, Ohio is close to a large population of Old German Baptist Brethren who live to the west. This group generally doesn’t like to be photographed either. But what about photographing other things: objects, scenery, etc? Many Plain People – Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites, and German Baptists – are avid photographers, snapping photos of wedding tables, sunrises, family trips, etc. The photos just don’t general feature people. These German Baptists are getting some great close-up shots of some beautiful flowers. Of course, the issue arises in that Plain People are human and that some, if they have a camera to take photos of scenery, might be tempted to take some photos of loved ones, especially their children. Actually, since Amish children aren’t baptized into the church yet, many Amish adults have more permissive attitudes about photographing them (that doesn’t give strangers license to snap away their cameras at Amish kids, that is rude regardless of your religion). That’s why calendars featuring the Amish often showcase children. And some conservative Mennonites don’t mind being photographed at all. This is Cherlyn Beidler, a conservative young Mennonite woman in Pennsylvania who is an avid photographer.