Plain Photography?

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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.

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The Discussion

  1. Marilyn from NY says:

    The first time I was in Pennsylvania I was going to ask an Amish Lady if I could take her picture. A native Pennsylvania Englisher explained about Amish not wanting their pictures taken and why. I did not take the picture and apologized to the Amish lady. Since then I always leave my camera in the car. If I want to take a picture of an Amish farmhouse, barn, etc. I always ask first and explain that I will not take their picture or anyone else Amish’s picture. I do the same with Old Order Mennonite. What gets me are people running around trying to sneak a picture of someone Amish or Old Order Mennonite after they have been told not to take pictures. No wonder some Amish and Old Order Mennonite don’t like tourists or some Englishers. Sure I would like pictures of the Amish and O O Mennonites, but I respect their ways.

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    • the same people who do not reespect the Amish Mennonite andor Hutterites desire not to be photographed are the same boorish people who photo everyone in any sort of pose at any gathering when they decline.

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  2. Christine says:

    Has Cherlyn sent you any pictures lately?

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  3. Carol Morris says:

    My grandparents were Old Order German Baptist. They would allow family to take pictures but not others. I am so thankful to have pictures to remember them by.

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