The traditional Mennonite communities of Belize very rarely make the news because, being very conservative, they keep to themselves and rarely allow cameras into their settlements. But, one photojournalist has gotten a rare opportunity to do a photo-documentary on the community of Springfield, just outside of Belmopan. He’s sharing it in an exhibit at the Image Art Factory, today he discussed with the media what was his vision behind it:
Norris Hall - Photojournalist
"Springfield is a small Amish Mennonite settlement about 50 minutes drive from Belmopan. It was established about 17 years ago and it is one of seven Amish settlements in Belize. The idea for this exhibition came when my wife and I, along with other friends, went out to Springfield around the middle of 2011 to buy plants. I was looking for organic fruit trees. When I was out there I got the idea to do a documentary on the Amish Mennonites. I found myself in a dilemma where I wanted to respect their not wanting to be photographed but I also found myself, as a photo journalist, having the responsibility to document life in all its pursuits. I tried all different methods. One day I went with my camera and I volunteered to go into the fields with them and I was actually doing manual labour. I was harvesting tomatoes along with them and transporting them back to the village. I had my camera around my neck and even then when I was trying to grab some shots I was rebuked, they refused. Eventually I was able to persuade them about what I was doing and gradually some of them came around - not all of them.
I want my viewers to see and become aware of a lifestyle that is certainly very simple, certainly not sophisticated. As a matter of fact, it was beyond being simple; it is basic. To capture the lifestyle of the Amish Mennonites as a very simple folk living a virtual existential lifestyle and at the same time not endorsing materialism"
The Exhibit opens up to the public on Friday, April 19, at 6 p.m.
Norris Hall’s Photo Exhibit on Springfield
A black and white photographic exhibition opens this Friday evening at the Image Factory. It took some convincing for veteran photojournalist Norris Hall to record candid moments in the life of a small Amish community in Springfield off the Hummingbird Highway. His camera lens captured their way of life which shows that while basic and minimalist, the Amish are a happy bunch. News Five’s Jose Sanchez has a sneak peak at the photographs.
Jose Sanchez, Reporting
Springfield, the small settlement about fifteen minutes outside of Belmopan on the Hummingbird Highway is the place where photojournalist Norris Hall went on assignment.
Norris Hall, Photojournalist
“The idea for this exhibition came when my wife and I along with other friends went out to Springfield around 2011 to buy plants. I was looking for fruit trees and when I was out there, I got an idea to do a documentary on the Amish Mennonites.”
“Did you find them to be receptive to your idea?”
“Well that is a good question. The answer is that it was an exercise in trying to win friends and the first time I went out there with my camera, I met Mister Harder. Mister Harder is one of the elders of the community and I was making conversation with him; preparing him for a photograph and he was standing with his son by a cart. And I said to Mister Harder, I think your son along with you would make a really nice photograph and Mister Harder said I agree with you Mister Hall and your eyes make a nice camera; there was some objections. I went out there several other times and I tried to persuade them to photograph them. Their response was always you can photograph everything around—the animals, but not us.”
That is why some of his pictures have that halting gesture, but Hall decided to work in the fields with the Springfield residents, and the exhibit shot on film is the result.
“This process is with film, black and white thirty-five millimeter film. Locking up myself in the dark room and printing these images. For me it has always been a spiritual experience and I always insist that black and white photography is the most honest and sincere art form because it captures all the elements in the photograph. Documentary or photo-story. All I want my viewers to see and become aware of is of a lifestyle—a lifestyle that is certainly simple and not sophisticated. It goes beyond being simple; it is basic. And to capture the lifestyle of the Amish Mennonites as a very simple folk living a virtual, simple existential lifestyle and at the same time not engrossed in materialism. They live very happy and cheerful.”
The photo documentary ‘Springfield, an Amish Settlement’ will be launched six p.m. on Friday night. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.