The Amish aversion to photos

(NOTE: I’ll be posting some more about the writers’ workshops I attended over the weekend in upcoming posts.)

Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute had an interesting item in his Morning Meeting listserv message today about why Amish people generally decline to have their photos taken. The aversion generally appears to be linked to the second commandment:

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”

Of course, there is also the issue of obnoxious, gawking tourists with their digital cameras visiting Amish areas and regarding the people there almost as zoo animals to be photographed. Tompkins tracked down a compelling essay from the Amish Country News that explores these issues thoroughly.
He also presents this intriguing tidbit:

“I have done stories with Amish over the years, and they explain it to me in other ways, as well. Having a photograph of yourself is a symbol of pride, which Amish teach against. Amish folks have told me that it presents less of a problem if you capture their picture without asking their permission first, because, then, they have not condoned the action.”

At the writers’ workshop on Sunday, Poynter’s Kenny Irby spoke about the importance of including other journalists such as photographers, designers, videographers and Web producers in the reporting process from the beginning. Covering the Amish is an excellent scenario of when involving these other folks from the beginning could prove to have been critical in making the story better. For instance, there might be less of an aversion to an audio story, which could add a whole new dimension to the piece.

About Danny Sanchez

Danny Sanchez is the Audience Development Manager at Tribune's Sun-Sentinel.com and OrlandoSentinel.com. Danny has been with Tribune since 2005 in a variety of editorial, digital and product development roles in Hartford, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. He has also previously worked in the newsrooms of the Tampa Bay Times and The Miami Herald.
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