Photography and the Amish


Gene Wintersole photo

Ohio’s Amish Country Magazine’s Facebook page and website get a lot of comments about photography and the Amish. Most non-Amish think it’s against their religion to be photographed. It’s actually NOT against an Amish person’s religion to be photographed. The Amish religion does, however, prohibit POSING for photographs.

Some Amish completely refuse to allow themselves to be photographed. Posed photos in particular may be seen as a show of pride. On the other hand, some Amish make a distinction between having one’s photo taken in a natural setting vs. posing for a photo. Some have no problem with allowing themselves to be filmed or photographed as long as it is obvious they are not posing.

If you ask an Amish person for permission to take their picture, most will politely say no, as this could be construed as a willingness to pose. Most Amish say they could care less if people take their picture, provided the photographers are respectful. Some Amish have recounted stories of tourists driving up their driveway and boldly walking onto their front lawn to take a photograph. One woman recalled a time when a tourist stopped her buggy and held the reins of the horse until his wife could get a photo! Stories like these aren't the norm, but keep in mind a few disrespectful photographers can generate a great deal of bad feeling within the Amish community.

Amish often consider photos of their children different than photos of adults. Opinions vary, but many Amish allow photos of children. One reason is that children are not yet baptized members of the church and not necessarily bound by the rules against posing for photos. Numerous professional photographers have featured photos of Amish Children.

Most Amish have little problem with photos taken of their land, dwellings, businesses, carriages, and so on. Amish typically feature images of their businesses, products or farms and homes in advertisements for their products.

While the rule against posed photography generally holds, general attitudes toward photography have been evolving, at least among certain segments of the Amish population. This may be due to increased Amish contact with the world, due to an occupational shift that has seen them opening businesses requiring greater contact with outsiders.

Attitudes to photography typically vary among individuals as well as between the different Amish orders. Amish also acknowledge different approaches to taking photos. On the whole, the Amish remain wary of picture-taking, but it’s probable that Amish attitudes to photography are softer today than they might have been 10 years ago.

Here in Ohio’s Amish Country, being a high tourist area, the photography rules are a little less strict. That doesn’t mean a photographer or tourist can be disrespectful. No means no, a turn of a head means don’t photograph my face and by all means do not trespass on private property.