I was raised as a progressive Mennonite, but my appreciation for the horses which drew the mild wagons of my father’s dairy somehow drew me back to the traditiona Mennonite ways. For over forty years I have specialized in paintings of the more conservative Mennonite communions. The horse powered groups are by far the most interesting. They represent to me a historic view of what used to be in Ontario but still exists in this little piece of Waterloo region.
I would be happy to tell people that it has been easy to make contact with many of the individuals in these conservative groups, however that is not the case. Because of their wish to be left along and their reluctance to be photographer, it has required a good deal of time to build even a small bridge of trust. Perhaps because over the years I have demonstrated my desire to show these people through my Mennonite paintings, as they are rather than as funny cartoon characters, I have been able to gain access to their farms, and in some cases, even their hearts.
I have always found it the best policy when out taking photographs to simply ask permission of these potential subjects. I am on occasion still not given the nod of approval. It is important to realize that people from any group are individuals, not a monolithic block. I think that much of the public sees the Mennonites/Amish as severe and humorless. Indeed some are. But there are many who are funny and outgoing and in my experience, wise. It’s not surprising that people are more relaxed at home, on their farms, in familiar surroundings. I value the friendship that I have built up over the many years with many of these folks.