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Documenting the Amish: Lessons in Noninvasive Photography
Posted By Michelle Black On August 17, 2010 @ 12:09 am In Photojournalism | 10 Comments
Amish culture is fascinating to me. But as a photographer, documenting the Amish is a challenge, because posing for a photograph is discouraged by their religion. It is seen by many (though not all) Amish people as an act of vanity.
The Paparazzi Approach
So, what’s the best way to capture the Amish on camera? Some of the advice I’ve read or been given by other photographers includes:
Sorry, but I don’t feel like “stealing” moments like that. It makes me feel like a paparazzi, and it’s kind of creepy.
I know if I were outside mowing the lawn or planting flowers and someone started photographing me from a distance, it would frighten me a little.
In my experience, the best photos happen when both parties are present and aware of one another. And this is just as true for the Amish as for other subjects.
Three Tips for Noninvasive Photography
I’ve found three noninvasive ways to achieve good results in documenting the Amish:
Enjoy the Process
You aren’t always going to leave the house to go shooting and come home with gold. That’s okay; enjoy the process, and respect what is in front of you for what it is.
Wear your camera visibly and know when to use it, and don’t touch it if you aren’t 100 percent confident that you should. Smile instead, and move on to the next possibility.
That’s been a pretty good rule of thumb for me in my work — whether documenting the Amish or any other subject.
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