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Amish Life in Focus: The Dennis L. Hughes Photographs of the Amish - Exhibition Guide

The Amish

Do you have questions about the Amish? Check out these links for more information. Additional information can be found in the Anabaptist and Pietist Studies Guide linked above.

The Amish and Photography

Amish culture typically does not permit posing for photographs, with many groups feeling that it promotes vanity and individualism. To respect his Amish subjects, Hughes often took photos with a telephoto lens to avoid getting too close. This method allowed Hughes to take a variety of photographs over the years and capture Amish life and culture in not just Lancaster County, but also in New York, Indiana, Florida, and other parts of Pennsylvania.


In 2014, East Petersburg, Pennsylvania photographer Dennis L. Hughes donated his collection of over 18,000 images of Amish life and culture to the College’s Hess Archives and Special Collections. The collection features images of Amish communities throughout the United States with a special emphasis on the Amish of Lancaster County. Amish Life in Focus showcases a selection of recently digitized materials from the Hughes collection and an oral history interview with Hughes. Curated by Emily Erdlen ’23 and Archivist Rachel Grove Rohrbaugh, the exhibition was funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Sample images, the exhibit panels, and the oral history video can be viewed online at

Guiding Questions

Relatively new to exhibition viewing? Consider these questions when viewing Amish Life in Focus. Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to view the images in this exhibit!

Thank you to Eric Schubert '23 for his help preparing this guide.

  • What do I see going on in this image? Is there a story depicted?
  • What details are visible? Are there details I can’t see, or which are difficult to understand?
  • What do any details of the image tell me about the subject?
  • What might have been the original purpose or context of this image?
  • What seems to be the most important thing to notice about the image?
  • What choices did the artist make in taking the image?
  • How are different visual elements (ie: line, color, light, proportions, scale, composition, etc.) used to help make sense or lead my eye around the image?
  • Is there a pattern to the images?
  • Are certain images placed ahead of others within the exhibit? If so, why?
  • Do the images evoke meaning or emotion?
  • Talk about the images with others. Was there a popular one?
  • After you leave the exhibit, perhaps do some research on the photographer or image topic.

Oral History with Dennis Hughes

Oral history interview with Dennis Hughes conducted by Archivist Rachel Grove Rohrbaugh, Emily Erdlen '23, and Eric Schubert '23 on October 6, 2021 in Elizabethtown College's High Library. The interview is also available on YouTube.