Photos from a vinyl village

Since the global pandemic has left us all stuck at home, I’ve been taking a lot of walks around the neighborhood. I still want to make photographs, so the neighborhood has been my primary subject.

It’s a nice neighborhood. People take good care of their properties here. The houses are all very similar in design but as you drive through everything looks tidy and cheerful.

Reflected vinyl

Yet this isn’t my kind of place. I yearn for the city grid, with streets that actually go places. I miss interesting and quirky local businesses; out here, it’s all chains. I miss living in an older home, solidly built. These houses feel like they’re built of balsa wood and papier-mâché.

It’s not all bad. It’s incredibly convenient to live near major shopping. We’re right by I-65, so we can go anywhere in central Indiana quickly. And we get spectacular sunsets here.

But as Margaret and I talk about where we’d like to live when the nest empties, I’ve been clear: not here.

I walk around the neighborhood every day I can during our stay-at-home orders, to get some exercise and breathe the air. The main road loops through the neighborhood. Streets branch from it, leading to the clusters of houses.

Down the main road

I’ve been bringing a camera along on most of these walks just to scratch my photography itch. It’s made me see some things that I’d been glazing over. High-voltage power lines bisect the neighborhood. Retention ponds are everywhere. Boxes stick up from the ground all over the place, even in peoples’ front yards, to ease access to utilities. And a petroleum pipeline runs under the neighborhood, or at least that’s what all the tall yellow-and-white signs above it say.

And then you look at the houses themselves. They present well from the front, but around the sides not so much. Many houses, like ours, have no windows on the sides. The acre of vinyl siding is really unattractive. When there are windows, they seem randomly placed. I’m sure the windows’ placement makes sense from the inside, but on the outside it’s disharmonious.

I’m thinking about a project of deeply photographing this neighborhood, and then publishing a book. I could start with all of the beautiful scenes and slowly shift to all the ways this neighborhood is actually banal, and even sometimes ugly.

It’ll be fun to explore this idea, at any rate. It’s not like I have many other photographic subjects while we all stay at home!

Other coronavirus reports from Khürt Williams, Steve Mitchell, Shawna LeMay, and Gerald Greenwood.


12 responses to “Photos from a vinyl village”

  1. retrocrank Avatar

    I like the idea! The white middle class version of my “Enchantment” project. I look forward to the collection.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m still trying to catch the full vision for this as I walk my neighborhood – hope I do soon so I can put this project together!

  2. Marc Beebe Avatar

    Retention ponds? You mean mosquito nurseries.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      What’s funny is that there are fewer mosquitoes here than at my last house which had no retention ponds. I don’t get it.

      1. Marc Beebe Avatar

        I wonder if they perhaps treat the ponds to prevent just such an occurrence?

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          That gives our HOA an awful lot of credit for forethought!

  3. marcusterrypeddle Avatar

    A neighbourhood Good, Bad, and Ugly project is an interesting idea. Does anyone give you dirty looks while you’re photographing houses and properties?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      So far, no. Thank heavens.

  4. TCSHIDELER Avatar

    I’m hoping to get into the habit of being a regular commenter here when appropriate, so I apologize for lurking!

    I love the idea behind your concept. I’d love to see the pros of the modern neighborhood devolve into the cons. I’m so glad I don’t have an HOA here. No one cares enough, and that’s fine by me!

    My old band used to practice at a vinyl village in Avon down the road from where my aunt and uncle “built” a brand new house, albeit in the same type of setting with the same amount of windows and retention ponds you describe. I remember a member having to obtain approval for a non-permanent clay fire pit. I couldn’t go that route, though I’m sure the re-sell would be higher than what I have here.

    Ask me how to get there today and I’ll throw up my hands- I know it’s off Ronald Reagan Parkway, but beyond that I’m clueless. You couldn’t find me in a place like that by choice, and I know you’re hankering for something else as soon as the nest empties. Kudos for finding the art in the area. Those sunsets are unreal!

    I do remember Reagan Parkway blocking off a lot of older roads, as you’ve described, and that a back door of getting to my aunt and uncle’s neighborhood is to go through Clermont. Aside from the drive-in theatre town down in recent years, the community appears to retain a lot of what it separates itself from Unigov, though like most of those neighborhoods, it’s unique nature is retreating. As an aside, I remember headlining a metal and ghetto blaster show at Lucas Oil Raceway five or six years ago. The weather was terribly windy.

    I live just outside of Muncie in a 1980s subdivision of rentals (I own this one with my stepdad) that is a third duplexes, a third single-family homes, and a third condos with a pond I’d love to fish. Jackson Pike out of Muncie has no real reason to exist since it largely parallels the greater Bethel Pike a mile north. Some believe it to be a continuation of a Native American trail from here to Delphi, but I’ve not done any research to confirm it for myself. I’ll have to email Richard for some coverage!

    Thank you for your engaging glut of posts. Whether or not I comment, and despite their topic, they engage me day to day.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      No need to apologize for lurking! I lurk on several blogs myself. But I will always thank you for a comment!

      My previous house was a 1969 brick ranch in a declining neighborhood. I was happier there than here. Some of that is because, frankly, our lives have been incredibly difficult since my wife seriously injured her back three years ago. It’s been one unbelievable unwanted event after another. This house is the setting for all of it.

      But even without that, life in the old neighborhood was just more relaxed and more pleasant. Crime was low if for no other reason that nobody knew our tiny neighborhood was even there. The yards were large. I had a nice deck with a lovely back yard. Once I made it lovely, that is; the house and yard were not well cared for when I moved in and I worked my can off making it better.

      I miss the place. Rather, I miss what I had there. I look forward to my wife and I pushing through this time of our lives and finding our own joy in our next home.

  5. TCSHIDELER Avatar

    I realize that I should have mentioned that my addition is off of the Jackson Pike i mentioned. Sorry!

  6. DougD Avatar

    Well I guess I should have known you had aesthetic principles with an eye for detail. I live in a mid 60’s neighborhood with homes built to 4 or 5 standard plans, but it works for us.
    Our town center is full of character homes and it’s fun to walk around and check them out. We had our fellow CC’er Ed Stembridge over once for dinner and a stroll.

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