Photography, Preservation

Favorite subjects: Second Presbyterian Church

This is a favorite subject that I haven’t shot very much. It’s truly a favorite subject in that I really enjoy it. I wish I made it over there more often for photography! It’s striking, a “whoa!” moment the first time you come upon it while driving north on Meridian Street in Indianapolis.

Second Presbyterian

Pentax KM, 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M, Kodak Tri-X 400, 2017

It reminds me of Westminster Abbey a little. The architect must have been going for that style.

SecondPres.PNG

Imagery and map data © 2017 Google.

But this building is not Westminster Abbey’s contemporary: it was completed in 1960 on Indianapolis’s Far Northside. Surprised? But the congregation dates to 1837, making it one of the oldest in the city. It’s also one of the largest Presbyterian congregations in the United States.

Second Presbyterian is perhaps best known for hosting the 1990 funeral of Ryan White, a boy who contracted AIDS via blood transfusion at a time when this disease was ill-understood and greatly feared. His fight to attend school in his hometown of Russiaville, about 45 minutes north of here, made the national news and was instrumental in helping our nation understand that AIDS was not just a “gay disease.”

Over 1,500 people attended White’s funeral, including then-First Lady Barbara Bush, Michael Jackson, and Elton John.

Since then Second Pres has led a lower profile. Here’s hoping I’m raising it ever so slightly today, because this building is just lovely. I’ve photographed it over and over.

Second Pres

Minolta Hi-Matic 7, Fujicolor 200, 2011

Second Presbyterian

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Arista 100 EDU (expired), 2015

Second Presbyterian

Canon AF35ML (Super Sure Shot), Fujicolor 200, 2011

Second Presbyterian Church

Kodak Monitor Six-20, Kodak Ektachrome E100G, 2011

A handful of times I’ve shot some of the building’s details.

Second Presbyterian

Pentax KM, 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M, Kodak Tri-X 400, 2017

Second Presbyterian

Canon AF35ML (Super Sure Shot), Fujicolor 200, 2011

Second Presbyterian

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Arista 100 EDU (expired), 2015

At Second Presbyterian Church

Pentax K1000, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax, Kodak Gold 400, 2017

At Second Presbyterian Church

Pentax K1000, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax, Kodak Gold 400, 2017

Even though I love this beautiful building, I just haven’t figured out how to shoot it. There have got to be more interesting details, more dramatic angles, but I struggle to find them.

Second Presbyterian

Canon AF35ML (Super Sure Shot), Fujicolor 200, 2011

So I keep shooting it straight on. Fortunately, it looks great that way.

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6 thoughts on “Favorite subjects: Second Presbyterian Church

  1. Indeed s great subject. As a casual fan of church architecture, I can say that Second Pres was really swimming against the modernist tide of the era by choosing to emulate a gothic cathedral. Sadly, my own Church (the one that built the real gothic cathedrals) had fully succumbed to the banality of the age, at least locally.

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    • Most denominations build banal buildings today. It’s a shame. But having been a part of launching a church-building project, I know well: costs for something beautiful are often more than the church can bear.

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  2. Forrest Johnson says:

    Complete pictures DO NOT SHOW UP ON YAHOO MAIL

    From: Down the Road To: fejohnso@yahoo.com Sent: Monday, August 14, 2017 5:02 AM Subject: [New post] Favorite subjects: Second Presbyterian Church #yiv3749911221 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv3749911221 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv3749911221 a.yiv3749911221primaryactionlink:link, #yiv3749911221 a.yiv3749911221primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv3749911221 a.yiv3749911221primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv3749911221 a.yiv3749911221primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv3749911221 WordPress.com | Jim Grey posted: “This is a favorite subject that I haven’t shot very much. It’s truly a favorite subject in that I really enjoy it. I wish I made it over there more often for photography! It’s striking, a “whoa!” moment the first time you come upon it while driving north ” | |

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  3. That is a nice project and you’ve done some interesting work with it. I have had a similar relationship with the nearby church in Albuquerque’s Old Town over a period of years. I really only like a very few of the many pictures I have made of the building.
    I think the most fundamental aspect of exterior architectural photography is the initial decision of how to handle perspective. There does not seem to be any good compromise position; you either go for extreme upward angles or you stick with rigidly upright verticals. That choice will also dictate what your focal length will be to a large extent.
    The Albuquerque Museum photo archive contains a lot of pictures of the city’s churches made in the first half of the Twentieth Century, some of which can be seen in a Flickr album at https://www.flickr.com/photos/abqmuseumphotoarchives/albums/72157668312830791. The collection is worth studying. All of the pictures were obviously made with large format view cameras which allowed perspective control. Most of the pictures also look to have been made using yellow or orange filters to darken the sky and emphasize clouds.
    Church interiors offer a lot of interesting photographic possibilities, but the challenge for the photographer is even greater, largely because of the often dim lighting. The church I have photographed most has windows only on the east and west sides, so the sun’s position radically influences the appearance of the place. I’m usually most comfortable using wide-angle lenses for the interior shots, though a telephoto can be useful provided you can mount the camera on a tripod. I make an effort when doing the interior shots to be quiet and as non-intrusive as possible, and I’ve never had anyone object to my making photographs of the inside of churches even during services. Of course, noisy shutters are not an option.

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    • Thank you for that link. I have only glanced through the images so far, but I can see that several of them are quite lovely and worth looking at more carefully.

      I shoot a lot of buildings, as you know. One thing I really appreciate about Second Pres is its enormous lot. I can back up far enough to get the entire (very large) church in the frame with nearly any camera/lens I own. And shooting from that distance tends to avoid keystoning of the subject. One church I keep trying to get a good photo of is Salem Lutheran Church in New Augusta. There just isn’t enough room to back up, even with a 28mm lens, and avoid awkward perspectives. I shot this with a 28mm lens, but had to lay on the ground to fit the whole church in the frame:

      Salem Lutheran

      Lately I’ve been experimenting with using Photoshop to improve such challenges. The tools correct minor faults well and can improve major faults, but you have to shoot with using them in mind (e.g., on a heavily keystoned image, leave plenty of dead space above the subject).

      When I shoot interiors I tend to just use my Canon S95 for its versatility. I suppose that if I intended to shoot an interior on film that I’d want a fast lens and fast film, or a tripod.

      Perhaps a future project for me is Lovely Old Churches of Indianapolis.

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