Sunday, May 27, 2018

Why do the Amish forbid anyone to take their picture?

The Amish believe that photographs in which they can be recognized violate the Biblical commandment, “Thou shalt not make unto thyself a graven image.” It is for this reason they do not willingly submit to having their faces photographed.

The Amish hold humility as a highly cherished value. They generally believe that pride is a threat to community harmony. Because items such as personal photographs can accentuate individuality and call attention to one ‘s self, they are prohibited from the Amish home. They wish to be remembered by the lives they have lived and the examples they left, and not by their physical appearance.

Some Amish church groups permit snapshots for government files since these photos are not kept by the Amish themselves. There is one reported case of a Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Amish man that traveled around the world decades ago had a passport with a photo for his trip.

“It is like I live in a zoo,” one younger Amish man said. “You can’t go to town without getting your picture taken.”

It is perhaps ironic that one particular group of people who wish not to be photographed are probably the most photographed assemblage in the United States. Tourists are constantly reminded of Amish stance on being photographed. In Lancaster County, the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau says, “Many Amish believe that photographs in which they can be recognized violate the Biblical commandment. Please follow our lead in taking no photographs in which faces are recognizable.”

If a tourist or visitor approaches an Amish person and asks to take their picture, they are obliged to decline the request politely.

“Most people don’t bother to ask,” said the Amish man. “And what can we do about it? Not much.”

Photography is probably the biggest objection the Amish have to tourism. While they do mingle with the English and tourists and look to sell their products to the visitors, the never-ending picture taking is a real annoyance.

Special Note:

Amish Wisdom is an ongoing feature of various entries about the Amish on George Sheldon's website and blog. Written and produced by George, it is intended to provide information about those of the Amish faith.

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