One of the things I was especially mindful of when I visited Lancaster County was my desire to respect the Amish directive not to be photographed. The Amish want to be remembered for the kind of people they are and the example they leave, not by their physical appearance. Most of us non-Amish are quite happy to be remembered all three ways.
I love taking pictures with my camera, especially of people who are different from me, as they go about the ordinary aspects of their daily lives. The research weekend I spent at a working Amish dairy farm, I was stunned again and again by the beauty of the Amish human landscape, not just at the farm but in every Amish home I went to.
It was difficult, at times, not to point my camera at the people, but I kept to my promise to myself that I wouldn’t take a picture of an Amish person unless I got permission. I saw plenty of other tourists taking pictures of Amish people, as though they didn’t care that the culture they were visiting has, as a whole, respectfully asked not to be photographed.
If you travel to Amish country, you may have the same urge as I did to take photos of the darling Amish children walking their pony or playing in their yard, or the couple in the courting buggy out for a Sunday stroll, or an Amish father and his little boy at an auction, standing side-by-side, with matching clothes and hats and suspenders. But I would encourage you not to give in to that impulse just because others are doing so.
When I spent the day with an Amish blacksmith in research for my book, The Amish Blacksmith, which releases August 1st, I asked him if I could photograph him and he said yes, for which I was very grateful. Had he said no, I would have honored that request.
Does this mean you won’t have very many photos of your Amish trip? Not at all. I took more than 100 photos. If you truly want to remember what the Amish people looked like, there are wonderful pictorial books that you can purchase at the local museums and bookstores.
One of the best ways to enjoy a trip to Amish country is to be among its people, talking with them, eating with them, enjoying their company, and respecting what they hold dear. This, in turn, will endear you to them. There are plenty of beautiful non-peopled vistas to remember your trip by!
Susan Meissner is the award-winning author of sixteen novels, including A Fall of Marigolds, which was named to BookList’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction for 2014. Her latest book which releases August 1st, The Amish Blacksmith, co-written with Mindy Starns Clark, is the second installment in The Men of Lancaster County series. A RITA and Christy award finalist, Susan is also a speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. She is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When she’s not writing novels, Susan writes small group curriculum for her San Diego church.
Purchase Susan’s books here.
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