Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
Exodus 20:2

In the Judea-Christan tradition (and extending to Islam) the key point to consider is that man is made in God's image. It is not permissible to make an image of God (sorry Michaelangelo) and thus making an image of a person is the same as making an image of God.

Old traditions hold the having the image of something as having a power over it. This can be seen as ancient cave paintings to more recent voodoo with the "spit and image" of a person.


Judaism is likely the most relaxed with respect to religions that have strictures against taking pictures. Some of the more orthodox traditions within Judaism obey the "graven image" very strictly, others less so.

One of the points to consider that along with the 39 melachot, that reverence to God cannot be more important than the a person - that the 39 melachot may be 'broken' if need be - while one cannot carry, burning, or knotting on the Sabbath it is proper to carry an injured person, start a car (burning fuel) and stitching up a wound on the Sabbath if these are needed to take care of the person. Likewise, a photographer tells of once when he was at a Yeshiva in Monsey, New York where a student objected to his taking a picture. The Rabbi in charge explained to the students that while the law covering graven images is important - it wasn't as important as a person making a living.


"On the Day of Judgment, creators of images will be chastised and asked to inject in them life and they will be unable to do so." (Bukhari)

Islam has the restriction upon making an image of God (those who are familiar with Dune may recall the Eyes of Maud'Dib). This restriction extends to the attempt to create something - an act reserved for the Creator.

An alternate reading of some of the scripture of Islam is that this is because of our human inability to create an accurate representation of something and that paintings and sculptures are 'deformed'. In this sense, the camera is acceptable because it takes an exact image of the original object.

Continuing upon the progressing views within Islam many of the restrictions placed upon various activities and items in the past had to do with combating polytheism in ancient times. As such, statues and images were worshiped as gods. Within moderate Islamic cultures photographs, paintings and statues of people are permissible in that they do not violate the spirit of the original rules - to stamp out polytheism - though images that carried any sort of religious nature to them would be disallowed.


This is a significant concern within Pennsylvania where the press photographers often come in contact with members of the Amish community. Within the Amish culture, it is prohibited for an individual to intentionally pose for a photograph because it calls undue attention to the individual. When there is an "overriding news value" to a photo it is permissible. Otherwise, photographs of groups of Amish without showing the faces or from a distance is acceptable (such as a photograph of a barn-raising).

Within the Amish community there is a strict set of rules that are prohibited with respect to artistic expression. Examples of this include music, dance, and photography. Painting and drawing are allowed - given that the subjects themselves are natural (animals, landscapes).

The key point with the Amish is the community aspect of the values. It is the community that is most important within Amish life rather than the individual. As such, individualism is considered a threat to the community and its values. This extends to the use of a name in a publication because to the Amish this would appear to be a way of getting attention and recognition.

Photographs have always been a taboo within the Amish culture to the point of extending the second Commandment and equating photography with idolatry. Amish see the people who pose for a photograph as exalting themselves. An Amish individual who poses for a photograph would need to make a public confession and refusal to do may result in excommunication and shunning.