A photo feature
By David Loomis
INDIANA – On Friday, Anthony Frazier hitched a ride he couldn’t refuse — in a horse-drawn Amish buggy to an Amish horse-and-buggy auction at an Amish barn in Strongstown.
And he got to take the reins.
Frazier, an Indiana photographer, said he had been talking about the ride with Amish acquaintances for a year.
“I’m curious about Amish folk,” Frazier said in a phone interview on Saturday.
HIS IMMERSION in Amish culture began on the cold and rainy morning aboard a buggy bearing two other men.
“It was the first time I’ve been in a buggy,” said Frazier, a Washington, D.C., native. “I’ve always wondered what it would be like. It’s bigger than you think.”
A tarp protected passengers. Rain entered the compartment. So did pebbles tossed by the horse’s hooves.
Customized buggy options include windows. Prices range from $3,000 to $15,000, Frazier said. Buggy tech is not stuck in the 19th century. Disk brakes, shock absorbers, softer suspension and different wheel materials are available.
“They’re well-crafted,” Frazier said. “Well-built.”
During his ride, the driver handed him the reins.
“Everything on the horse changed,” he recounted. “The horse is aware when someone else is on it.”
One horsepower felt like flying.
“That horse pulled three of us, flying down the road,” Frazier said. “It’s much faster inside than when you’re outside. It’s uplifting. It’s very fun. It was amazing.”
At the auction, Frazier’s cultural immersion deepened. The place was crowded with 100 people, Amish and non-Amish (or “English”) alike.
“It looked like the set of ‘Witness’,” Frazier said.
His camera was a key consideration, he said. He knew from Amish acquaintances that closeup facial photos were discouraged – as much for modesty and humility as for privacy.
Frazier said for those reasons he won’t shoot even profiles.
“I’m mindful of that,” he said. “They don’t come right out and tell you that. It’s not a law. They would prefer that you not do it. I’m very respectful of their custom.”
To capture the Amish-English mix, Frazier photographed Amish from behind in a parking lot filled with buggies and pickups near the auction barn.
During impromptu harness racing on an adjacent road, Frazier shot photos from a distance.
“I can’t wait to get a horse and buggy,” Frazier said.
Bio: Anthony Frazier
Indiana, Pa., photographer Anthony Frazier was born in Washington, D.C. He graduated from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa., and worked as a juvenile-gang and hate-group specialist at Adelphoi Village in Latrobe.
He hosts “The Acoustic Hour,” a long-running radio program on Renda Broadcasting in Indiana.
Sidebar: Amish population
Between 2010 and 2018, Amish population increased 29 percent in Pennsylvania, home to the nation’s largest Amish cohort at 76,620. The figure represents about 24 percent of U.S. Amish population of 270,000.
Amish population is growing rapidly, due to large family size (seven children on average) and a church-retention rate of 80 percent.
The Amish settlement in Smicksburg, Pa., ranked 11th largest in the nation in 2017, according to one estimate. The population was 2,985, it included 21 church districts, and it was established in 1962. The tally ranked it “by far the youngest on this list, suggesting relatively rapid growth.”
David Loomis, Ph.D., emeritus professor of journalism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is editor of The HawkEye.
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