While shooting for Organic Valley, America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers, Madison-based photographer David Nevala was asked to visit an Amish farm in Hillsboro, Wisconsin in efforts to capture the diversity of the cooperative. Photography and the Amish don’t exactly mix—humility being a core value has deemed the photograph too prideful; its capture of individuality a threat to community harmony. Furthermore photographs are seen as a violation of the Second Commandment, “Thou shalt not make unto thyself a graven image.”
Faced with quite the ‘No Pictures, Please’ scenario, Nevala handed over ultimate veto power to the patriarch of the farm for any and all photographs taken. At the end of the shoot, contact sheets were presented for review. Nevala recalls, “When I returned with the contact sheets, I sat with the father on a shaded porch, mostly in silence. The kids swarmed around a second set of contact sheets until the father quieted and shooed them away. Once he finished his edit, I had contact sheets with selects, not too unlike my own editing process. The remaining pictures had mostly children and pictures of adults were predictably scratched out.”
While we’d love to know which ones didn’t make the cut, Nevala’s Amish Farm delivers that fascinating mix of old times in a modern world so specific to the Amish through images that feel like they’ve been taken out of a book—telling stories of childhood adventure in a place that seems far away and long ago.