Planning For The Day, Amish Women at Market, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 2020

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Hreedoy Khandakar | United States

This photo story examines the unique culture and sustainable living practices of the Amish community living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


Two decades ago, in my village, we produced nearly everything for our everyday needs, independently, with the exception of a few items like salt and kerosene which we needed to purchase at the market. We lived collectively, much like the Amish who embrace a culture of mutual assistance to build a self-sufficient community. Similarly, the Amish achieve self-sufficiency for everyday living by making and growing and making their own goods and produce, and resisting dependency on the world of modern conveniences, such as technology, and gas or electrically powered equipment. In our village, which was infrastructurally underdeveloped, we lived under the glow of the kerosene lamp. The parallels between my experiences in Bangladesh and the Amish lifestyle resonate with me, and I feel a sense of cultural and philosophical kinship with those who live off the land, simply and independently. This photo story is a means to celebrate the richness of rural life and the resilience of communities striving for self-sufficiency and a sustainable lifestyle.

Observations From The Field

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live without modern technology, electronics, or electricity? I still remember the first time I saw an Amish farmer plowing his field with a horse-drawn carriage while driving through Lancaster County. I recognized then that I must understand more about this unique community, and one that reminded me of my childhood living in a farming and fishing village outside of Khulna, Bangladesh.

My photos attempt to capture many facets of Amish village life and culture, including their farms, markets, homes, gardens, businesses, food, clothing, textiles, artwork, and family gatherings. Through this work, I also examined their means of transportation and modes of working together, craftsmanship and production, and other aspects of their daily lives. My photos aimed to capture personable expressions and an intimate quality even if my photos were often taken from a distance.

To capture members of the Amish community in my photographs, I had to overcome some challenges. Due to their reluctance to being photographed, I had to stand at respectful distances or approach individuals discretely and just quietly shoot film. As a general rule, the Amish, if asked, will not consent to their photo being taken, but they will generally not resist you doing so, at least for a very limited time, so I had to work fast when I approached certain subjects. And, at times, I did feel like an interloper.

During one trip to Lancaster, I visited the Flying Cloud, an authentic Amish hat-maker and hard to find shop, located up on steep hillside in the village. As someone who embraces the Amish way of life and clothing style, I purchased one of their impeccably, handcrafted straw hats. On my visits to the Amish village thereafter, I wore my Amish straw hat, out of a sense of deference, and felt a heightened sense of connection with their lifestyle and a reconnection with mine, growing up in the village in Bangladesh.

Through this project, I have developed a strong interest in getting to know the Amish community better, and will continue to develop this photo story over time. I desire to understand their inner and private lives more fully, and I recognize what a challenge that may be, as I am seen as an outsider. It is my hope, that on return visits, I may be able to develop stronger connections with some individuals in the community that will both help to inform me about their lifestyle and continue to inform this body of work.

Hreedoy Anirban Khandakar

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