A calm horse is a more valuable horse. Before entering the auction house in Mount Hope, Ohio, this man tries to distract and spook his horse as a way of preparing it for what will come with a large crowd. If the horse is spooked while showing, its value drops considerably. (Michael Hanson)

A young girl shows her small horse in the family barn behind their house in Mount Hope, Ohio. Oftentimes, children are given livestock to train and raise as their own. (Michael Hanson)

Documenting the cultures of people who produce food is a common thread in photojournalist Michael Hanson’s work. While covering the Rick Santorum campaign in Ohio several years ago, Hanson’s curiosity led him to an Amish family that ran a dairy farm. Photographing the Amish was difficult, as photography or pictures are not always welcomed in Amish communities. “It was a challenge to make these images. And that challenge enticed me. … I wanted to see what was behind the curtain,” Hanson said. The family introduced Hanson to the Mount Hope Horse Auction, a predominantly Amish event where farm animals and equipment are sold to buyers from across the country. Hanson recalls about the auction, the old, red auction house was a time machine. Walking through that showroom and the back corrals offered a glimpse of a stubborn culture that fights change. And, maybe that’s what drew me to the Amish and a simple life. I use technology too often. … It’s a freedom I can’t find in my office.”


A man whispers goodbye to his horse moments before entering the auction house in Mount Hope, Ohio, with his father nearby. Horses are family members in Amish communities as they rely on these animals for many daily chores. It’s tough to say goodbye to a horse, but Amish families make money on these important sales. (Michael Hanson)

A father and son watch a pair of horses shown inside the Mount Hope Auction house in rural Ohio. (Michael Hanson)

Teenagers watch a horse trot through the parking lot at the Mount Hope Auction House in Mount Hope, Ohio. Trainers follow the horse, showing its gait and cadence in the hope of selling it for more money. (Michael Hanson)

A seller quickly unstraps the buggy from the horse as a buyer watches. The horse panicked and bucked, causing its sale price to drop. (Michael Hanson)

Young men learn about the auction from their elders at the Mount Hope Auction house. (Michael Hanson)

Two young boys squeeze in a last-minute bike ride before dinner and the sun sets on their farm in rural Ohio. (Michael Hanson)

In Mount Hope, Ohio, boys watch their father and an uncle harvest corn. It’s expected that they will take over the farm and continue Amish traditions when they are older. (Michael Hanson)

Samuel Beech and his wife and son gather the last remaining tomatoes of the season. He plans on canning them in preparation for the winter that is coming soon. (Michael Hanson)

The Beechys inside their home before dinner. (Michael Hanson)

A lone buggy moves down a back road in rural Ohio. (Michael Hanson)

Hanson later sought to photograph an Amish community in Unity, Maine. He connected with a man who ran a furniture business. “I knew that he was a little more lenient than other Amish families, as he agreed to let me stay with him in exchange for help at the county fair,” Hanson said.  Hanson always sensed a strong sense of community while covering Amish families but knew when someone rejected the church, they were shunned. When he arrived at the man’s home, he was loading furniture into a horse-drawn trailer. Hanson learned he had denounced the church, that he was no longer Amish. According to Hanson, the man’s faith had been waning for some time. The implications were extreme — his family left him and moved to Kentucky. At his daughter’s wedding, he was made to sit alone outside the tent. He sees his daughter but not his grandsons, and his interaction with them is cold. His life remains simple but his motivations are now out of concern for the environment, believing a simple lifestyle is the only sustainable one.


An avid environmentalist and formerly Amish man still relies on the horse and buggy along with other Amish traditions despite his departure from the church. After getting kicked in the face by his horse, he quickly scrambles to take the reins and return to the barn. (Michael Hanson)

A formerly Amish man hugs another at his woodworking station in rural Maine during a festival. His daughter stands with his grandchild in the background. After leaving the church, he was shunned by his family and community. (Michael Hanson)

This man woke one morning and denounced the church. His shunning was swift and painful. At his daughter’s wedding, he wasn’t allowed to eat inside the tent with the others. For now, he lives alone in his workshop, keeping most of the Amish traditions. (Michael Hanson)

A young girl waits for her mother to bring clothes in from a laundry line in Unity, Maine. (Michael Hanson)

Hanson’s natural curiosity about cultures is what drove him to cover Kazakhstan and the Dominican Republic this year, and he says it “will be my focus on the next project, wherever that takes me.”  See more of Michael Hanson’s work here.