Kitchener-Waterloo

Cambridge pop-up show highlights Waterloo Region's Mennonite community

Fred Hunsberger reproduced about 150 proofs of his father's photographs. David Hunsberger captured the activities of Waterloo Region's Mennonite communities.

David Hunsberger photographed the region's Mennonite communities from the 1950s to the 1970s.

David Hunsberger, in this photo with his wife Katherine, photographed Waterloo's Mennonite communities in the 1950s. (David Hunsberger/ davidlhunsberger.com)

A pop-up show in Cambridge Saturday afternoon will give a glimpse into Waterloo Region's earlier Mennonite communities.

St. Jacobs photographer David Hunsberger took a keen interest in capturing the activities of the Mennonite community where he grew up. 

Now, his son is keeping that legacy alive by reproducing and preserving his father's work.

"Somehow he got interested in photojournalism and storytelling," said Fred Hunsberger "One of his neighbours gave him a camera and I think that just hooked him in."

David Hunsberger photographed the daily lives of Waterloo's Mennonites. (David Hunsberger/ davidlhunsberger.com)

Raised in Waterloo, the senior Hunsberger's family were considered "modern" Mennonites.

They lived in the city, used electricity, and adopted a mode of dressing different from more traditional Mennonites.

But despite being considered modern, he frequently talked with Old Order Mennonites and his photographs reflected an interest in family relationships, and how people were related and connected. 

"He was like an older Mennonite in that way," said Hunsberger.

Changing times

Much of the senior Hunsberger's work captured a pivotal moment in the history of Waterloo's Mennonites. They were changing, and began to adopt more modern lifestyles

"It came down to choice at that time," said Hunsberger. "If they were going to adopt the modern ways, or if they were going to stay old order, or if they were going to land somewhere in the middle."

David Hunsberger captured the transition with his camera, but not everyone in the community was happy about the imminent change.

During that time, some Mennonite groups held revival meetings where they expressed a fear of becoming worldly and ungodly by embracing modern ways.

Waterloo Mennonites at a tent revival. (David Hunsberger/ davidlhunsberger)

Somehow David Hunsberger was allowed to capture photographs of those meetings even though many Mennonite's considered the camera a symbol of vanity.

"On one hand they didn't want to embrace photography, but they still recognized at some level the value of it," said Hunsberger. 

Hunsberger says aside from his father's collection, he has never seen any other documentation of the revival meetings.

He says his father's collection is the largest single contribution to the Mennonite Archives of Ontario.

Saturday afternoon, Hunsberger will share that contribution at a pop-up show in Cambridge.