Do No Harm With Your Photography
Lancaster County in Pennsylvania is known for its Amish and Mennonite religious sects. The Amish are a closed sect that shun the modern trappings of life and choose to live without electricity and the machinery driven by it. They farm with horses and travel in horse drawn buggies which makes them particularly attractive to photographers. But, they also don’t want their pictures taken believing that it is an act of pride-fullness. When photographers visit Lancaster the sport is to sneak a photograph of the Amish. Photography guides recommend long telephoto lenses to hide what you are doing. I’d like to share an experience that made me realize this is a bad piece of advice.
Early one foggy Sunday morning while photographing a farmscape, I heard the familiar clip clop of horses hoofs on the road and looked up to see an Amish family in an open buggy dressed up for worship. It would have been and awesome shot, A buggy coming through the mist. The Amish family figured I would photograph them and looked really apprehensive. But I didn’t. I just waved as they passed by and could see the collective sigh of relief as they waved back.
With so many great photographs being created, we tend to seek out the shot that will stand out. For whatever reason we do this, likes on social media, print sales, or just adding to our collection of images that make us awesome photographers, we tend to not always think of the consequences. If I swung my camera around and photographed that family, I would have negatively affected their holy day. A phrase stuck in my head, “Photography Should Do No Harm.” That photograph would have done harm so it was the right thing to let it go. Now, I have a memory of a pleasant interaction with a Amish family, and they had an experience with an outsider that didn’t tread on their beliefs. That’s far better than adding another image to the photographs I’m posting here.
Lancaster County Farms
If you want authentic Amish in Lancaster County, you have to get off the main roads and away from tourist towns with cool names like Bird In Hand and Intercourse. Amish farms tend look the same so you end up driving around and looking for compositions and light. It’s good to start early and look for the views. Mist, if you are lucky enough to have it, makes everything better.
Lancaster County History
Old covered bridges are all over Lancaster County. This one has graffiti carved into it from the 19th century. Note the date 1870 in the foreground.
Early one morning before dawn, I happened upon this old mill. The mix of early twilight and the one electric light was so eerie I had to stop.
It’s one thing to finish a trip with lots of great photographs. Then again it’s even better if you come home feeling good that every photograph you make didn’t have any ill effects on your subjects.