Film Photography

Photographs of things that aren’t there anymore

What have you photographed that has since changed dramatically, or isn’t even there anymore?

I’ve been walking or driving around with my camera for long enough now that I’m starting to build quite a collection of photos of scenes that look very different today.

The Elbow Room pub was nearly an Indianapolis institution, having been in operation since 1933 — right at the end of Prohibition. It abruptly closed for good a couple weeks ago.

Elbow Room

These neon signs came down immediately.

Elbow Room

This was one of my favorite downtown pubs. I first visited it when I still lived in Terre Haute and had business in Indy. When I worked downtown in the late 1990s I used to walk over here for lunch all the time. After my brother moved here, this was the first bar we visited together. In the past couple years, Margaret and I have stopped here several times, usually at the end of a downtown photo walk. She really liked a lemony martini they made. I have always loved their cheeseburgers.

The Elbow Room (rear)

The Elbow Room occupied the ground floor of a wedge-shaped building at the corner of Pennsylvania Ave. and Ft. Wayne St. on the north edge of downtown. I’ve sat at a table in that window many times, most recently just a few months ago.

The Elbow Room

An unexpected benefit of buying and testing film cameras over the years is that I walk and drive around with them and photograph stuff. I’m not necessarily trying to make art, but am rather just capturing anything I find interesting in the moment to see how the camera works and what quality of images it can make.

I made these shots with a Nikon F3HP and 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor on Fomapan 200, and a Minolta Maxxum 7000 and 50mm f/1.7 Maxxum AF on Fujicolor 200. They’re not great art; heck, that first color shot turned out pretty underexposed and muddy thanks to a fault in the camera.

But I have them. The Elbow Room’s existence is proved, though evidence is starting to be erased. Soon this will be some other business and anyone who moved here since might never even know about The Elbow Room.

In 2008, I took hundreds of photos as I surveyed the entire Michigan Road. In 2018, I hope to survey it again, end to end. I wonder what photographs I’ll take of things that have changed. Maybe I’ll do a series of then-and-now photos!

What photos lurk in your archive of scenes that are all different now?


13 thoughts on “Photographs of things that aren’t there anymore

  1. The Elbow Room was a favorite place of my group of friends during my law school years in the 80s. Even though I had not been there in years (Or decades, even) I was sorry to hear about its closing. And now you make me want to try their cheeseburger.

    • I didn’t go in all the time, but it was always like an old friend when I did visit. Maybe this is why it closed: plenty of us have fond memories, but not enough of us kept visiting now.

  2. Nicely developed ideas about one of the most interesting aspects of photography. Your pictures are a good reminder that everything, including the most rock-solid parts of our environment, changes with time. The idea that we can photograph the same thing twice is certainly an illusion.

    • I remember once stopping by a donut shop on the way to work, and the next morning when I drove by it had burned to the ground. Your comment made me remember that. Things can change suddenly and with no warning!

  3. Heide says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about the disappearance of The Elbow Room, Jim — it’s sad to lose a place that contains so much personal history, isn’t it? But at least you still have the memories, and the (wonderful) photos. I have a similar collection. Among my favorites are the shots I took over the years at/of the newspaper where I used to work … and the subsequent systematic demolition of its historic old building. Although my shots aren’t fine art by any stretch, one of these days I’ll pass them along to the Historical Society, along with my memories of riding in the paper-conveyor carts with my friends after our weekend shifts ended, and watching the New Year fireworks from the roof to ring in the new millennium. As Tom Wolfe wrote, “You can’t go home again,” can you …

    • I’m sure the historical society will be glad to have those photos! The building that housed our newspaper was demolished too. It must be a trend.

  4. Pingback: Photographs of things that aren’t there anymore — Down the Road – Site Title

  5. Kevin Thomas says:

    Sorry to hear that someplace you enjoyed has closed. I wish I had more pictures from around Austin from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Things have changed so much, and most people are so new these days they don’t even know they existed. Shoot, most people don’t even know the nice development, children’s hospital and park in the center of town used to be the airport…

    • I’ve not been to Austin but I have heard that it has undergone massive changes over the years. Get out and shoot stuff now before it, too, changes!

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