We call them pitch-ins here in Indiana. I guess people in most of the rest of the country call them potlucks. When people from out of state visit our church and we announce a pitch-in, the “hunh?” look on their faces always turns to an “Oh!” look when we say, “That’s what we call a potluck.”

Pentax ME

Whatever you call them, I’m sure they’re a staple of churches near you, too. My church had one not long ago. I brought my Pentax ME, sporting the 50 mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens and some Kodak Tri-X 400, hoping to get some good candid shots. But I was pressed into service in the buffet line placing turkey on everybody’s plates, leaving less time to photograph people than I had hoped for. I did capture part of this family. The dreadlocked fellow and his similarly dreadlocked wife have something like seven children, all remarkably well-mannered and -behaved.


I caught this happy lady mid-laugh. I’m still getting my sea legs shooting people, and am learning how to be unobtrusive while recognizing and swiftly acting on the right moment to click the shutter. I hit it just right here.


I hung around to help clean up, giving me a chance at this shot. The light from the fluorescent tubes disproportionally lit an otherwise dim space and I wondered how my camera would capture it. I kind of like the mood here, with the blown-out-bright fluorescent tubes that don’t quite light this shot all the way, leading to shadowiness at the bottom and a stark overall feel.

Washing dishes

All day long I shot this lens wide open or nearly wide open because I was working with available interior light, shooting handheld. That was more of a challenge after the pitch-in when I went up into our worship space because there is so much dark wood in there, especially the pews. My depth of field was very shallow. And of course the windows ended up blowing out with the afternoon sun streaming through them. Still, I liked how the line of the balcony’s underside harmonizes with our curved pews.

West Park Christian Church

This shot shows the curved pews even better. The floor slants toward the altar. I shot so the pews appeared level, which threw the windows off level in the background!

West Park Christian Church (crop)

I have a thing for church cornerstones and photograph them whenever I can. (Check out my church-cornerstone gallery.) The main part of our building, including our worship space and a few rooms, was completed in 1909. An education wing was completed sometime during the 1920s.

West Park Christian Church

The building has been well used over the years and while it’s far from dilapidated, it could use more TLC than the coats of paint its interior has received recently. I’d like to see some restoration work done, especially around the interior’s delightful tall woodwork and wood floors. But we’re not exactly a wealthy congregation; really, we’re doing good just to meet somewhere structurally sound!

A church I once attended found a time capsule in its cornerstone. Check it out!

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14 responses to “Scenes from a pitch-in”

  1. Tori Nelson Avatar

    These might be my new favorites, Jim. The shot of the woman laughing is priceless!

    1. Jim Avatar

      She wasn’t terribly happy I photographed her on a day where she skipped makeup and put her hair up. Oh well; can’t please everybody!

  2. Denny Gibson Avatar

    The pictures are great. Looks like you got that people thing down pretty quick. But I come here not to praise your photos but to comment on your title.

    I recently attended a radio concert with Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. They are from Brown County, Indiana, so are naturally “pitch-in” folk. He spoke quite a bit about differences encountered in their almost constant traveling and pitch-in vs. potluck was high on the list. They had a whole different idea when invited to their first potluck but are now bilingual and will never be late to dinner again.

    1. Jim Avatar

      I’ll bet you could do a whole routine on Hoosierisms vs. what the rest of the country calls things.

  3. melly Avatar

    always love the mood of black and white film.
    the kitchen sink picture is perfect.

    enjoyed your car story too!

    1. Jim Avatar

      This was my first time shooting Tri-X and I liked it so much I bought more. Glad you liked my car story! More are on the way.

  4. Mike Avatar

    That’s a fine shot of that handsome family. The Tri-X suits the subject too.
    I was surprised to find a couple of boxes of Tri-X recently in a local CVS pharmacy. Less and less choices lately in film at any of the usual places.

    1. Jim Avatar

      I found Tri-X at CVS last week myself. I bought two boxes on impulse, just because it felt so improbable to find it there. But the stuff is cheaper online.

  5. pesoto74 Avatar

    Great set of images. The one of the woman doing the clean-up looks timeless. It is funny that I never heard of pitch-ins before after having lived on the border with Indiana for several years. I am encouraged to hear that CVS is at least offering one type of b&w film. I haven’t seen b&w sold around here for years.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Except for the bottle of Purex in that dishwashing shot, it could just as well have been taken in 1962 as 2012! I don’t recall seeing Tri-X at CVS before, so maybe they’re trying it out. I do notice that CVS has hung onto film longer than the other chains. The one nearest me still has a 1-hour color lab that I love to use — six bucks for processing and a CD of scans.

  6. ryoko861 Avatar

    I love old churches! The architecture is amazing on some of them! The ones I’d love to see are the ones in England. Knowing that some are over 200 years old just astounds me!
    The picture of the curved pews is very cool! If you took it in color it wouldn’t have the same effect!

    1. Jim Avatar

      I have some color shots of the pews, and you’re right, it’s not the same. Black and white was just right for them.

  7. christopher. Avatar

    We just had a discussion at housechurch last week about “pitch-in” vs. “potluck.” I think I’ve heard both terms used at different times in my life, so I grew up with them as synonymous.

    Also, I love how moody these photos are. That especially works in the interior shots of the pews, and the photo of the lady laughing. Echoing some of the above comments, I know, but wanted to sound off personally on them.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Shooting b/w in available light really made the dark wood seem darker than it is, and contributed significantly to the mood. This is the effect I was hoping for! It’s delightful to me to see that I’m now able sometimes to achieve what I’m trying for. I chose the right film, the right lens, the right lighting, and the right compositions. It’s so cool when you feel yourself getting better at something like this.

      Here’s a view of the sanctuary from above, taken with my iPhone, for comparison.

      West Park CC Sanctuary

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