This is one of the most frequent questions visitors to Amish Country ask, and who can blame them? We take photos of things we find interesting or beautiful, or sights that we want to remember.
So how do you record your visit to Amish Country without offending the residents?
1) Before you get out your camera, ask yourself: If I were that person, would I want someone to take a picture of me?
You wouldn’t want someone to take a picture of you eating in a restaurant or driving home after a long day of work. Nobody would.
2) If you can’t resist taking a picture, ask permission first.
This is probably the biggest complaint that the Amish have about tourists – we don’t respect their wishes. So, if you want to take a picture of that darling little girl in the blue dress, ask her mother or father first. If they agree, thank them graciously. But if they refuse, thank them for their time and walk away.
3) Buy a picture!
There are many professional photographers who work with Amish communities and publish their beautiful pictures in calendars, books and cards. Take advantage of these opportunities and rest assured that the subject had the photographer’s permission to publish the photos.
4) Take a lot of pictures that don’t have people in them.
Barns, farmyards, clotheslines, buggies (from the side or rear so that you can’t see the driver), schools, houses… All of these are fine for your photos.
5) Resist temptation.
The last time I was visiting family in Indiana, we were driving down a back-country road in Lagrange County and came up behind a buggy. My husband, who knows that driving in Amish Country requires patience and grace, waited for an opportunity to pass the buggy safely. As we drove along at the buggy’s pace, two children looked out the back window and waved to us. Of course, we waved back! But then I thought of the camera in my hands. Would I dare take a picture of these friendly children?
Thankfully, I resisted the temptation. That “picture” stays in my memory, without the blemish of guilt.
Why don’t the Amish want their pictures taken? This question has almost as many answers as there are Amish communities. Yes, some of the Amish believe that a photograph is a way of disobeying the Second Commandment. More communities see photos as an object of pride.
But many Amish people just don’t like having their pictures taken by strangers. Remember that the Amish people you see on a visit to any of the many Amish communities aren’t just part of the landscape or quaint actors on display for tourists. They are people with homes, jobs, families and lives. Just like for any of us, a parade of tourists snapping pictures every time we turn around gets tiresome.
The next time you visit Amish Country, I hope you’ll keep in mind what one of the editors of Family Life magazine wrote: “When we are gone, let us be remembered…by what truly matters — the lives we have lived and the examples we have left.”
As you visit Amish Country, remember what you learn about the people and their faith – and you don’t need photographs for that.
What is your favorite way to keep your memories of your trips to Amish Country?
Jan Drexler’s ancestors were among the first Amish immigrants to Pennsylvania in the 1700s, and their experiences are the inspiration for her stories. Jan lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband of thirty-five years. She is the author of five books published by Love Inspired, as well as “The Journey to Pleasant Prairie” series from Revell: Hannah’s Choice and Mattie’s Pledge, and Naomi’s Hope. Find Jan on Facebook, Jan Drexler, author, or her website, Jan Drexler.com.