Today I was lucky enough to head to Lancaster County Pennsylvania. I was not exactly sure what to expect. As I drove west from Philadelphia I enjoyed being out of the city and was excited when I saw my first horse and carriage being driven by an Amish man. As I got closer to Intercourse (yes there really is a town called Intercourse) there were more people in traditional Amish clothes driving buggies. I did want to pull over and get my camera out, but I decided not to. As I got closer to Intercourse I realised I was entering some kind of Amish theme park. There were literally bus loads of people in the very small town. A whole tourism industry has grown up around the Amish, their clothes, their buggies, their quilts and their way of life. I don’t know much about the Amish and their beliefs but I did not feel comfortable taking their photograph like they were some kind of freak show.
There are times when just because you can pull out your smartphone or camera and take photos of people does not mean you should. Having the ability to take a photo anywhere anytime has, I think, got out of hand. I saw people today taking photos of Amish people going about their every days lives but for me it felt wrong. These people are not tourist attractions so for me it did not feel right. There was an interesting tension as many of the Amish worked in and may even own the tourist shops selling all kinds of touristy crap (most of which seemed to be made in China) but I still did not feel comfortable photographing them.
I did take one photo today, it felt OK because there were no people or identifying details in the photo.
Have you ever been in a situation where you want to take photos but you either knew or felt it wasn’t right?