Photography, during the 150 years since its discovery, has become not only a means of recording images but also a medium of expression and a powerful new art form. Among Mennonites and related groups it was not immediately accepted by all. For example, in the 1880s, the Brethren in Christ feared that photos would nourish pride (nonconformity; humility). Later, they banned the showing of slides in churches because such use might encourage attendance at motion picture theaters. By the 1940s, the pressures of missionaries wanting to report on their work with slides and motion pictures opened the way to the use of projected images in churches (Wittlinger, Piety and Obedience , 345-46). In the late 20th century Amish and some other conservative and Old Order Mennonites continue to consider photographs a form of graven image (Exodus 20:4).
Most Mennonites have used cameras to document life and culture as well as the work and witness of the church for more than 100 years. Some photographers have moved beyond record-making into photojournalism, using pictures to tell a story. Still others have made their photography an art. This survey can only provide a small sample of what is being done in this field.
Leon C. Yost, Jersey City, New Jersey, a graduate of Eastern Mennonite College, has used his camera both to document and to interpret the cave and rock wall pictographs and petroglyphs of the Southwestern Indians, the ancestors of the Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni. As subjects for his photographic art he has also used the deserts and canyons of the southwestern United States as well as the glaciers and mountains of the Yukon and Alaska.
Mark S. Wiens, Wichita, Kansas, specializes in Kansas small towns and landscapes such as the Flint Hills. His Cibachrome prints of Kansas architecture are part of the collection of the Paraguayan-American Cultural Centre, Asunción.
Blair Seitz lived in Kenya and the Philippines for nine years between 1972 and 1982 and completed photo assignments in 14 African and 7 Asian countries. He received a silver medal in New York's International Film and Television Festival for a series of sound filmstrips on the life of four ethnic groups in Kenya. He supplied the photographs for Amish Country (Crescent, 1987).
Suzanne Harnish Bishop of Goshen, Indiana, combines documentation and art. A series called "Mennonites in service" showing people at work in Haiti was exhibited at the Purdue convention of the Mennonite Church in 1987.
In his photographs in Meditations on a Place and a Way of Life (Winnipeg: Hyperion Press, 1983), Ken Loewen captured in his southern Manitoba community a reflection of the kind of life which Mennonite pioneers brought from their homes in southern Russia.
Wittlinger, Carlton O. Quest for Piety and Obedience: the Story of the Brethren in Christ. Nappanee, IN: Evangel Press, 1978.
Cite This Article
Shelly, Maynard. "Photography." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 23 May 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Photography&oldid=60224.
Shelly, Maynard. (1989). Photography. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 May 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Photography&oldid=60224.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 702-703. All rights reserved.
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