Anabaptist in America

Source: Vogue

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As the photographer roamed nearby Martinsburg and Lancaster, seeking communion by way of a medium-format Mamiya 645, she found willing subjects among the abstainers and the camera-shy. One woman with a calf-grazing hemline poses astride her road bike—gaze steady, posture self-assured. Another pauses in her window-washing, smiling over her shoulder; a third clasps a broom on her sun-dappled porch. The centrality of family and work ethic courses through this composite of daily life, tracing out the scope of hands-on engagement: carrying plants in the greenhouse, guiding young siblings at play, hands firm at the reins of the largest horse-drawn cart in sight.

If photography, to Newman, is an opportunity to capture “a fleeting image of something, some little world that once was,” it holds true here, even if this tradition stands strong against the tide of modernity; recent studies cite an upswing in population growth among Old Order Anabaptists, helped along by households counting eight, 10, even 13 children. Still, on a visit to Lancaster, Newman witnessed a low-speed collision between a car and a buggy, which left her quivering. “It was a weird reminder of how the cultures are inevitably crashing into each other,” she says. But more often than not, the overlap finds a quieter manifestation: a delicate floral-print dress, say, alongside silver Oakley sunglasses.

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