Here in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, we live in different worlds. There is Lancaster, an old city with a downtown vibe and urban issues. There are the surrounding small towns and suburbs, modern and busy. And then there is rural Lancaster County, with its vast farmlands. That is where more than 30,000 Amish people live as their ancestors have for hundreds of years.
A decade ago I began photographing signs that caught my eye in the “Amish Country” of Lancaster County. These are signs you don’t see just anywhere. As I ventured more deeply into the countryside, I came across roads, villages, and wide-open areas I never knew existed—and signs I felt compelled to photograph.
I was becoming a time-traveler in the land of yesteryear. Everything is slower here. Within minutes of leaving home on a photo expedition, a feeling of tranquility washes over me. Amish country is no place for anxiety or petty complaints, just hard work, humility, and simplicity. If I buy a fresh head of cabbage for a dollar, I get a dose of calmness for not a penny more. Taking along a camera allows me to bring home images that help sustain the feeling.
Over time, I began connecting the signs to their meanings. I realized that a sign for a quilt shop means an enterprising Amish woman is reaching out to non-Amish visitors to market her craft. A sign for fresh, local produce means sharing a farm’s bounty. A sign for buggy wheels means providing transportation to people who do not drive cars. Signs for a blacksmith shop, horseshoeing, hay, or harnesses illustrate the helping hands in support of a culture that relies on horses for both transportation and agriculture.
My pictures became a book, called Signs of Lancaster County: A Photographic Tour of Amish Country, newly released by Schiffer Publishing. It features 240 photographs of signs in their natural settings, all in Lancaster County. Paging through the book gives me the same peaceful feeling as driving around taking the pictures. Actually, it’s more peaceful than walking along a country road, watching out for cars traveling too fast! Even buggies seem a whole lot speedier and louder whooshing past you than when you’re inside a car passing them.
The signs of Lancaster County have taught me so much. I’ve learned more about how the Amish and Mennonites live and work. I now understand how the Plain people adapt to life in 21st-century America, by interacting with “outsiders” and supporting their own needs while adhering to their traditional beliefs and close-to-the-earth lifestyle.
I admit I have never wished to be Amish. I wasn’t born into it and am spoiled in many ways. But the smiling, hard-working people I have gotten to know through my photography teach unspoken lessons in the essence of simple living.
Signs of Lancaster County: A Photographic Tour of Amish Country is available through major outlets. Signed, personalized copies are available directly through the author-photographer at tanareiff.com. Secure payment is through PayPal or Amazon.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Tana Reiff is a photographer and the author of fiction and folktale retellings at easy reading levels. Following a career in adult literacy, she began exploring Lancaster County, where she has lived for over 40 years, with camera in hand. Her many unique photographs of rural scenes and wildflowers are available as prints and throw pillows on Fine Art America at tana-reiff.artistwebsites.com.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”