Preservation, Road Trips

The beautiful Art Deco church in the small Indiana town

What was I thinking, photographing this Art Deco church building on expired slide film? I wanted beautiful photographs of my visit.

Tyson United Methodist Church, Versailles, IN

Beauty is, of course, subjective. If you enjoy the color shifts of expired film, you probably find these photographs to be lovely. I guess they are, in their own way. I just hoped for realistic color and clarity, as I wanted to share this church as you’d see it if you walked up to it.

Tyson United Methodist Church, Versailles, IN

It’s not that I couldn’t go back and photograph it again; Versailles (pronounced ver-SALES) is only about 80 miles southeast of Indianapolis. I’m sure I’ll do just that one day and get exactly the photographs I want.

Tyson United Methodist Church, Versailles, IN

This church is named for its builder, James Tyson, who made his fortune as the first investor in Walgreen’s drug stores. Completed in 1937, Tyson built the church as a tribute to his deceased mother, a charter member of this congregation upon its 1834 founding.

Tyson United Methodist Church, Versailles, IN

This carefully maintained building of brick, terra cotta, copper, aluminum, and glass famously contains not a single nail in its construction. Many of its materials were imported from around Europe, but the oak pews are of local timber.

Tyson United Methodist Church, Versailles, IN

I was inside for a meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association; Versailles is a Michigan Road town. Two alignments of the Michigan Road pass through Ripley County, of which Versailles is the seat. The original 1830s alignment lies a few miles to the west, but the road was rerouted through Versailles at the dawn of the automobile era.

Tyson United Methodist Church, Versailles, IN

Such an architectural gem is unusual for a small Indiana town like Versailles. Tyson built two other Art Deco buildings here: a library and a school. The church is arguably the loveliest of the three.

Tyson United Methodist Church, Versailles, IN

Pentax Spotmatic F, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar, Konica Chrome Centuria 200 (exp. 12/2003)

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25 thoughts on “The beautiful Art Deco church in the small Indiana town

  1. What I like about expired film photographs like this Jim is they look like scans of photographs made decades ago that have been hidden away in someone’s attic.

    That last photo especially looks like it could have been taken in the 60s!

    I personally don’t like to carry/use more than one camera on any one photowalk, but maybe in a situation like this next time you could use the expired film like you did, then take a few more shots on your phone or little Canon P&S to capture the colours more naturally, for comparison afterwards?

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    • That is exactly what they look like! Or maybe an old postcard on that linen stock. I knew when I made this trip that I should’ve taken my little Canon camera – I’m not sure now why I didn’t. I think I was naively expecting this film to perform more like new.

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      • What’s interesting with shooting with film and getting results like this, is I bet your memories of the place will be more influenced by these images of the place now, than the place itself.

        When you go back, you’ll almost expect to step into a 60s time warp, and may well be disappointed it looks so modern!

        I find this whole topic fascinating, how the photos we make of places become more vivid than the images we remembered when we were actually there. I should write a blog post on this!

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        • Oh yes, that’s a topic I’ve thought about as well: the photos we take can very easily become the memories we have of a time or place or subject. It will be interesting to go back one day and be surprised by the place’s reality, in contrast to how these images record it.

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  2. I’ve only been inside that church once and it was when your film’s expiration date was still eight months away. A couple of additional details I remember are that a tunnel connects the church with the adjacent parsonage and that the ceiling is painted to duplicate the sky on the night of James Tyson’s mother’s death.

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  3. Wonderful series of photographs, Jim. Your sense of composition really shines in these. I’m sure you could return to the subject and get excellent results with more conventional color rendition, but it seems unlikely that a different treatment is going to result in a better portrayal of the intentions of the builder and architect. It would be worthwhile to spend some time in identifying the combination of qualities in these images which make them so compelling. While it is true that there is a resemblance to a faded postcard from the past, that only restates a general impression which does not explain the contributing effects.

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    • Mike, thank you so much for your affirming and encouraging comment. One thing I would like to do is spend more time studying art so that I have the experience and vocabulary to better describe my work. I struggle with it. A couple times you’ve dropped a word or two — for example, chiaroscuro — that introduced me to something that has helped me see and describe. I’m fully living the middle-aged life, trying to see children successfully launched and helping elderly parents as they transition into late/final phases of life. It’s amazingly time consuming. But thinking about all I can do to learn more about art and photography does provide a thing to look forward to.

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  4. Roger Meade says:

    A beautiful building with a couple of odd quirks. The classic Greek columns flanking the front entrance seem out of place, and the pews are typical of most any church IMHO. I may need to make a road trip to Indiana next spring. I would include a visit to the Heston Steam Museum. That must be close enough to the Michigan Road.

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    • Yes, those Greek columns are an oddity, as is the arch over the entrance. But most other details are spot on!

      The Heston museum is almost to Michigan, it’s so far up there, but you can still get most of the way there on the old Michigan Road! Be sure to see Rolling Prairie on your way.

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  5. Bill Bussell says:

    Odd brands of slide film are always suspect. I used Perutz one time. I never used expired film that I can recall. Anscochrome was once my favorite, but it fades. I literally used thousands of rolls of Ektachrome on the job. I really regret not using more Kodachrome. A tremendous loss to the world.

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  6. SilverFox says:

    Good show and the colours don’t take away much anyway. They add a certain something as has already been suggested. Versailles maybe another place to add to my must visit list.
    I need to ask one question though Jim, apologies it my be a stupid one but it’s been bothering me for a while; What is an Alignment? You use the term a lot but I am lost as to what it means (it’s probably that I am foreign).

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  7. jon says:

    Very interesting Jim. I think these are some of my favorite pictures of yours that I have seen. I like the look a lot. Nice presentation.

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  8. Dan Cluley says:

    I have seen quite a few “modern” churches, but this one is a great merging of the modern art deco, with very traditional church architecture. I like it a lot.

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