Unexpected things can happen at the end of a typical photoshoot…
A country lane stretching to the horizon, rolling through green hills and countryside. An undulating stretch of road, simple, pure lines, a lone cyclist at one with the landscape. The pharmaceutical client was very specific about the location for their international ads. The first thought that came to mind was the Amish countryside of Pennsylvania. We scouted locations in New York, New Jersey and sure enough the ideal road was found just outside Lancaster Pennsylvania in the heart of Amish country.
The lane was framed on either side by large Amish farms: no electricity, no modern conveniences. As we rolled in with our motor home, our lights and production set-ups the contrast was obvious. We had arrived from California and NY the day before and were amused by the horse drawn buggies sharing the roads.
Sunrise: we went to work. Models in the RV going through hair, make-up. Final wardrobe selections and options. The crew setting our lighting and testing…
I can’t show the scenes I was shooting that day: they’ll be out in ads running outside the USA soon enough. While we had the road closed for the morning an Amish father and son looked on from the roadside edge of their tobacco field, cornfields beyond and their dairy and farmhouse in the distance. They watched: curious and friendly, asking what we were doing. During breaks our crew struck up conversations and throughout the course of the morning there was a comfortable vibe as we created our scenes and our neighbors would come over from the field every hour to see what was up.
And then something interesting happened. We had wrapped. The client and agency headed back to the Big Apple, our models as well. It was just our crew moving at an easy pace cleaning up the production hardware: sandbags, C-stands and cases of lights and cameras. The amish farmer asked if we wanted to take a look at his dairy: he normally doesn’t take non-amish visitors into his home. Just drive down the road, take a right then the next dirt road to the right leads up to the farmhouse: “I’ll meet you there”.
We rolled up in the SUVs, parked next to the horse-drawn buggy and right away kids came from all over: playing in the yard, from out of the farmhouse and from out of the dairy barn next to us. Curiosity everywhere! We’re introduced to the children as his wife emerges from the farmhouse, smiling. Our hosts take us into the barn, telling us all about the daily milking, the chores that start well before sunrise, what life is like each day. The kids are quiet but clearly interested. The youngest don’t speak english: they learn that in school after 1st grade or so. The early language is the amish dialect.
We’re invited inside the farmhouse, a very special treat as he mentioned they never get non-amish visitors. His wife offers to prepare cucumber sandwiches…as we enter we see the girls around a big table off the kitchen, slicing cucumbers for pickling. No lights, no electricity. Simple life.
I have to head back to the hotel and leave the rest of the crew to enjoy their hospitality – they ended up spending magical hours together, packing the cucumber sandwiches in baskets and taking the horse drawn buggy down to the river for a picnic… As our wardrobe stylist Louise said “It was the best experience ever”. A wonderful meeting of very different cultures and a great end to a fun day.