Many people like taking Amish day tours, and during these tours, we come across the Amish people and often want to take their photographs.
However, the question that often lingers is; is it illegal to take a picture of an Amish person?
The simple answer is;
- No. Taking photographs of Amish people is not considered to be a violation of their religious beliefs. However, posing for photography is strictly forbidden in the Amish faith.
Posing is an expression of pride and violates biblical rules against graven images and pride: "Thou shalt not make unto thyself a graven image.
"Outsiders visiting Amish land are not obligated to adhere to these Biblical laws. Amish are fascinating photographic subjects due to their distinctive attire and traditions.
Many photographers have captured countless photos of their beards, buggies, and bonnets. However, these photos are inevitably for the benefit of the non-Amish world, not the prominence of the Amish people.
Certain Amish distinguish between being photographed in a natural location and posing for a photograph. Understandably, some people are uncomfortable with being recorded or photographed if it is clear they are hardly posing for the camera.
This is how many Amish documentary filmmakers and photographers approach their work. An Amish person may be allowed to be filmed provided he can credibly deny any wrongdoing.
This is called "plausible deniability." This usually necessitates photographing from the side or from a range rather than straight.
Obviously, if an Amish member is photographed posing on camera or filmed, he would not have the luxury to claim that they did not want to be photographed.
Traditionally, Amish are averse to exposing their faces directly to the camera. When Amish do consent to be interviewed on video, they are frequently done from the back or with their faces concealed to protect their privacy.
The aversion to having one's face photographed is also one of the reasons that Amish identity is typically provided without a photographic image.
This approach, however, has become troublesome in the latest years of new laws requiring picture identification at US border crossings.
This new law has been a hindrance for some Amish, who frequently travel to communities in Mexico and Canada in search of more affordable medical care.
Do Amish like to be photographed?
It is important to understand that the Amish typically do not want others to take photographs of them. The Amish perception of outsiders does not greatly vary from other communities.
The majority of Amish people like interacting with strangers, provided they are not perceived as 'on show.'
The Amish, who do not have radio or tv, are just as intrigued about "Englishers" as the rest of the world. On Sundays, Amish villages' stores and enterprises are closed (most of them are converted into rest areas, visitation, or worship centers).
Photographers have permission to photograph anyone. However, it is typically considered courteous to obtain consent, and it is prohibited to snap photographs without the approval of the subject.
Although the Amish think photographs are graven images as well, they do not believe in confronting "bad people."
How do the Amish feel about photography?
In today's society, most Amish people admit they do not mind being photographed as long as the photographers do it respectfully.
If asked for permission to photograph an Amish person, they will respectfully decline, as this may be interpreted as an inclination to "pose."
In several cases, residents have reported that passing tourists have walked into their front lawns to take pictures after pulling into their driveway.
One woman from Ohio recounted an incident in which a tourist blocked her carriage and seized the horse's reins so his husband could take a photo!
While such horrific incidents are not common, it is worth mentioning that a few irresponsible photographers may provoke phenomenal animosity among the Amish people.
The Amish Belief in Humility
The Amish regard humility as an invaluable virtue and see pride as an impediment to communal cohesion. Personal images are forbidden at the household level because they might enhance individuality and draw attention to one.
According to Amish tradition, it is forbidden to create a graven image of oneself in order to avoid breaking the biblical mandate.
They desire to be remembered for the examples they set through the life they lived, not for their physical looks. In the same way that the Amish don't keep or display personal photographs in their houses, they do not expect others to photograph them.
Many tourists to Amish communities are unable to resist doing so. Tourists snapping pictures of the Amish, on the other hand, seem to irritate them.
Humility is critical in many areas of life, including relationships, communication, and business. "Celebrity" is not a term frequently used in conjunction with the word "humility."
If an Amish member is aiming for fame, there are only a limited number of available spots. They should expect disappointment, at the very least, unless one is among the fortunate few. Humility is more beneficial.
Taking a low-key attitude in a relationship might help one see the underlying worth and wants of the other person.
Human comprehension is facilitated by humility. If humans approach life with humility, then they are less likely to destroy themselves for growing too big or too fast.
When the devil in one's head demands "more," humility checks it. To preserve their ideals, the Amish avoid personal interaction with anyone who does not share their beliefs.
Additionally, as a result of historical religious stereotyping, the Amish frequently demonstrate skepticism of strangers.
History of Photography in the Amish Community
Amish folks did occasionally allow their photographs to be taken.
However, by the mid-nineteenth century, when photography became widespread in the US and researchers as well as photographers with cameras started arriving in Amish towns, the majority of people were reluctant to pose or participate in the exercise outright.
The methods in which visitors acquired Amish images evolved dramatically over the 20th century. Overall, rural America's public perception has evolved away from dependency on productivity and abundance toward a "garden oasis" for metropolitan and local tourists to exploit.
Nostalgia for a bygone pastoral era developed into a cottage business, with Amish communities in places like Pennsylvania at its epicenter.
The first collection of photographs was published and distributed in Pennsylvania in 1940: A Guide to the Keystone State. This is one of the federal author's guidebooks.
The unemployed authors, teachers, booksellers, and other individuals who volunteered for this project were charged with the aim of producing accessible publications that documented and praised the culture and history of America.
Notable among the project's accomplishments was the documentation of the lives of approximately 2000 elderly ex-slaves.
A Guide to the Keystone State documents Amish photography, which reflects the motivations driving the gathering of slave discourses: they serve as a record of a rapidly vanishing civilization.
The Technological Dimension of Photography among the Amish
The Amish understand that technology has a profound effect on human civilizations and are committed to regulating it within their own community to ensure that it does not corrupt their ideals.
They believe that acknowledging the possible linkages between society and technological advancements—how each impact the other as well as how technologies may limit or improve their way of life—is critical to their community, culture, and religion.
Even the most innocuous technology gadgets, such as push buttons, are prohibited in some worship districts. Individuals must rely on pins to hold their garments together.
Similarly, the Amish often avoid photography, despite the fact that many outsiders consider photography a neutral activity. The Amish believe that photographs may help a person feel separated from the community.
Nonetheless, it is worth noting that the Amish groups in the US has a careful and exquisite attitude towards technology, which has enabled their norms, culture, and communities to remain consistent in the face of the growing outside society with all its chaos and disturbances.
Instead of avoiding modern technologies because they prefer to lead simple and solitary lives, the Amish do so to conserve their distinctive way of life.
The Amish elders test emerging innovations and then determine whether to adopt them or reject them based on one crucial concern:
Does this technological innovation take its people closer to their purpose of community and family connection? If they answer affirmatively, they embrace it.
However, if the answer is negative, they will eternally avoid it. Car ownership is an excellent example.
The Amish experimented with it and discovered that individuals would move away from the village when they had spare time rather than visiting and supporting one another's businesses. The same appraisal will determine the ability of a church district to embrace photography.
Change in Attitude
While the prohibition on staged photography remains in place in general, views regarding photography have evolved, at least within certain parts of the Amish community.
This might be because the Amish have expanded their engagement with the external world due to an economic change that saw them create enterprises requiring increased interaction with outsiders.
People's views on photography vary, and so do those of the many Amish orders they belong to. Additionally, the Amish recognize several methods of photographing.
While the Amish remain suspicious of photography on average, their attitudes about photography are likely milder now than they were a decade ago.