An occupational hazard—drawback? It's not really a "hazard"—for all of us is that we're constantly seeing pictures we can't take.
I think I could fall in love with the area where I'm living. Over the past 40 years or so, the countryside has been greatly improved by an influx of Amish and Mennonite farmers (I can't tell them apart), many originally from Pennsylvania, who have revitalized local farming. Their farms look like...well, traditional American small farms, of the sort that have been declining for many years in the rest of the nation. They look prosperous, well-tended and neat.
And maybe I'm in a "honeymoon period," but I find it very appealing to see horses and buggies on the roads and in town. The other day I saw a natty open buckboard with a Mennonite couple and their little girl aboard. The woman and girl wore long dresses and bonnets, and the man was dressed soberly in plain clothes with suspenders and a straw hat. The young horse had his head and ears held high and was trotting smartly. It was charming—like living history, a scene straight out of 1800s America (or Germany, which is really the culture they are preserving).
The Mennonites, at least, also ride bicycles. From what I hear, the practices of each group are determined by their churches, and each church is different in terms of what it will and won't allow—but the Mennonites tend to be less strict. I've noticed that they can be quite utilitarian about some things. For instance, they shop in the local supermarket (there's a shed in the supermarket parking lot for the horses, although many of them seem get rides in cars to town to shop), and I've seen Mennonite women wearing traditional long dresses and bonnets and wire-rimmed spectacles...and modern running shoes!
So I was turning out of the Walgreen's parking lot today and I saw a young Mennonite woman on a bicycle at the entrance to Byrne Dairy (which I think is Mennonite owned). It was the old-style bicycle they all seem to have (where do they get them, I wonder?), black and styled like a 1960s Raleigh. She had paused with one foot on the ground and was looking back over her shoulder at the coming traffic. In a nod to practicality, though, she was wearing sunglasses—only they were those faux-hipster wraparounds like the ones sold in drugstores, with iridescent purple frames and mirrored lenses!
Made me laugh. I just saw her for a few seconds as I passed by, but it would have made a wonderful picture. I can still see it in my mind's eye.
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Wes Cosand: "The Mennonites, Amish, and Hutterites compose the Anabaptist movement and represent an entire spectrum of accommodation to photography and the larger culture in general. As a convert to the Mennonite faith, I find these issues fascinating. Your readers might enjoy some of the photographs of a Hutterite colony in western Canada made by Kelly Hofer before he left his home and subculture for life in Calgary."
Daniel: "Farm country and especially family farm country is a good place to live. Your Mennonites are different from ours here in North Dakota. Here they have normal vehicles, pickups and the like. In addition our State laws do not allow Simplot and the large corporations to own the farms. Must be family owned. Pharmacies must be 51% owned by a legal North Dakota resident. Nice place to be.
"We gradually get the word out on our area and its attractions, subtle though they be compared to 'in your face' landscapes further West. Missouri river to the Red River (which runs North and ends up in Hudson Bay) we have flat land and rolling hills. Light quality to match anywhere. Low population and good people.
"Tillman Crane does a photo workshop here each year and it is successful. The farms are the subject matter, mainly the older abandoned homes after the older folks have moved to town and the kids to newer places.
"Farming is the lifeblood here and small family farms are the norm.
"Nothing like rural living and wide open country. Sure makes for some fine images."
William Schneider: "I remember a former student of ours, Krisanne Johnson, who won international awards for her story showing a young woman playing basketball with a buggy in the background, and the brim of a hat in the foreground. The link is the page showing this photo from the POYI contest site. Even today, most of her work is in B&W."
Doug: "The best resource on the Internet for understanding the Amish and the Mennonites is Erik Wesner's Amish America site. Although I attended a Mennonite church only briefly, I come from a long line of Mennonites and reading Erik's old blog was amazingly helpful in understanding my own family heritage. His site is now better organized and a valuable and authoritative resource. He does discuss the issue of Amish and photographing them."
Mike.: "I have a friend who calls such photographs, seen with the mind but unable to be taken with a camera, 'neurochromes.'"
Mike replies: I love it.
Mani Sitaraman: "David Bennett, terrific photo. I love the color tones. Allow me to translate that sign in Hindi for you. Color Photo Passport Size. In One Minute. Mobile Phone Lamination."