Film Photography

Portraits in a church basement

It’s funny how much I had to push up my courage to ask these people if I could take their portraits. I go to church with them; we know each other pretty well!

I shoot mostly old buildings and old cars because I like them. I like people, too, but they have feelings about being photographed that my usual subjects don’t. But my fellow congregants sure do enjoy it when I bring them prints of the portraits I make. And when I make their portraits I can speak with them as people far easier than I can otherwise.

So for our recent pitch-in lunch, I mounted a 50/1.4 onto my Pentax ME and loaded a roll of Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800. I set the lens to f/2, which I figured would give me the depth of field I wanted, and used the camera like a point-and-shoot.

This is Debra, a woman of few words but of vast faith. When I need prayer, I ask Debra first.


Meet Margaret. This is not my wife Margaret but one of the other two Margarets in our congregation. Our church is a Margaret-rich environment. This Margaret is an elder and has sung in our praise team (and in the choir that preceded it) since 1962.


Here’s Dawn, going to town carving a ham. We all come to church on our best behavior but I bet Dawn is quite ornery outside the church!


We had a guest preacher this Sunday, Nick, pictured here with his daughter whose name I didn’t catch.

Nick and daughter

Dave is a longtime member who at some point moved out to the suburbs. He drives in every Sunday.


Jenny and I had a moment of connection recently when she saw on Facebook that I’d been to the Anthrax concert. She was surprised that I even knew who Anthrax was. I project a pretty buttoned-down image.


We see Amber only sometimes. She’s a young adult making her way. Amber could well be the happiest person I’ve ever met. Every time I see her, anyway, she seems to be on the verge of rapturous joy.


Amber’s mother Rhonda is on the right, with her man Steve. They’re a great couple and seem to be good for each other.

Steve and Rhonda

I think these compositions are all right and I did get the depth of field I was looking for at f/2. I wish the colors were fuller, but I guess this is what you get shooting ISO 800 film. I had the processor make prints of these so I could give them out, and the prints have better color and less grain. It seems paradoxical, really — the lab made the prints from these scans.

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16 thoughts on “Portraits in a church basement

  1. You got some nice informal portraits in that session. It is always a challenge to make such pictures because the slightest change in expression or position can make such a difference in the subject’s appearance. Your success rate under the circumstances was pretty remarkable.
    I would guess that the ratio of people to other subjects for me would be in the neighborhood of 1:1000. Yet, when I look at my Flickr albums, I see that I have more pictures on display in the “People” album than in any other category. So I have to conclude that those pictures of people are more meaningful and satisfying for me. I would guess that most other viewers of the pictures likely have the same response.

    • People are interesting in ways that buildings and cars aren’t.

      For this series I just walked up and asked, “Can I make your portrait?” They posed, I snapped the shutter, and then we chatted for a minute. It did help a lot that these are people I’ve known for several years. I can’t imagine asking this of a stranger!

  2. Heide says:

    What lovely portraits these are, Jim — every last one of them. They all seem so genuine; I get a real sense of who these folks are from your images. To me, that’s the essence of good portraiture, and you’ve nailed it.

  3. Andy Umbo says:

    You know, Dave is the owner of the number one cigar lounge in the greater Indianapolis area, Smokers Choice , in Brownsburg!

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