The purplest house ever

The purplest house ever
Canon PowerShot S95
2020

My wife and I have been walking neighborhoods all over central Indiana for the last few years looking for one that gives us the most of what we want in a home and its surroundings, with prices we are willing to pay.

We’ve recently visited the Irvington neighborhood on Indianapolis’s Eastside a couple times, and we think this just might be the next place we call home. We’re at least a year away from being ready to move, though.

When Irvington was planned in 1870, it was as a town — Indianapolis didn’t extend this far east yet. Indianapolis annexed Irvington in 1905. The National Road, known locally as Washington Street, bisects it; a small business district with shops and restaurants lines this main street. To the north and south lie a network of narrow streets, many of them curved, a few of them still paved in brick. Homes are older, built between 1870 and about 1960.

This extremely purple house is for sale. I checked it out on Zillow — it’s lovely inside. But zomg, the purple. Now, purple happens to be my favorite color. What I’ve learned, however, is that a little purple goes a long way. At my last house, I used purple as an accent color in my kitchen, but used a particular complimentary shade of green much more. Purple mostly showed up in my kitchen in utensils, small appliances, and bakeware. I still have a complete set of purple Pyrex.

My Canon S95 got the color exactly right in this shot. Purple has not historically been its strong suit. It usually renders it as a purplish blue.

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Photography, Preservation

single frame: The purplest house ever

A little purple goes a long way.

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Old Louisville is a neighborhood in, as you might guess, Louisville. You’ll find it just south of downtown. It’s full of late-1800s homes mostly in the Late Victorian style, with a few Italianate, Federal, Second Empire, and Richardson Romanesque homes in there for good measure.

Belgravia Court, Old Louisville

The centerpiece of Old Louisville is St. James Court, a wide boulevard with a grassy median and a copper fountain. The centerpiece of this centerpiece, however, is Belgravia Court. It’s at the south end of St. James Court. But you can’t drive this court — you’ll have to park your car and walk. It is two rows of houses that face each other, sidewalks and a grassy median separating them. Gas streetlights line the median.

Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville

Here now, the doors of Belgravia Court.

Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville
Belgravia Court, Old Louisville

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Photography

Thursday doors: Belgravia Court, Old Louisville

The doors of Belgravia Court, Louisville.

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Film Photography

Walking through Zionsville in the rain with an old camera and expired Kodak Tri-X

Wet brick street

I didn’t mean to walk in the rain. It’s supposed to be romantic and all, but I was alone, and I didn’t really want to be wet. But this shower popped up out of nowhere. It caught my Dark Sky app by surprise — it is very good about warning me before it rains.

Argus Argoflex Forty

I figured the rain wasn’t going to hurt my camera, a circa-1950 Argus Argoflex Forty. It’s a hardy little box. So I pressed on.

It’s also a reasonably capable little box. Its lens is sharp except in the very corners, and it offers a range of apertures and shutter speeds.

I was burning off my last roll of Kodak Tri-X, expired since June of 1981. After shooting my last roll at box speed and getting dense and foggy negatives, I set exposure on this manual camera as if this were an ISO 100 film, hoping for improvement. I developed in LegacyPro L110 Dilution B (1+31).

This roll looked far better than my last one — less grainy, better resolution. Fresh Tri-X would have looked even better, of course; these still look like they were shot on expired film. But I’m pleased with these results.

The Flower Shop
Black Dog Books
Five Thirty Home
One Nine Five
VW Bus
Downtown Zionsville

I shot this back in early July during a week when we had several pop-up showers in full sunshine. That’s a real rarity! I haven’t seen anything like it since I was a child.

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Fire escape

Fire escape
Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK
Arista Premium 100
LegacyPro L110 Dilution H (1+63)
2020

I’m always amused by fire escape chutes like this one. They make you kind of hope there’s a fire just so you can use it!

Except that when a building is burning, these can get skin-burningly hot.

Also, those blocks holding up the chute look rather sketchy.

So maybe it’s best to leave this one alone.

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Film Photography

single frame: Fire escape

Looking up the business end of a fire escape chute.

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Lonely little window

Lonely little window
Nikon N2000, 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 Zoom Nikkor

Kosmo Foto Mono
Rodinal 1+50
2020

I live in a modern vinyl village. It’s not my cup of tea, but it made practical sense when Margaret and I got married and so here we are. We both hope to move on from here when the nest empties.

While we’re all on stay-at-home orders during the global pandemic, my photography is limited to my house and, when I take a walk, my neighborhood.

The houses all present well from the front, but they paid zero attention to what the sides and back look like. Windows, when they exist, are stuck wherever it made sense from the inside, without regard to how that would look on the outside. Our house has windows on the front and back, but the sides are huge, unbroken slabs of vinyl. Some houses have windows inserted in random places. The pictured house has this one window on this side, in the extreme lower left corner. It just looks weird.

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Film Photography

single frame: Lonely little window

Lonely little window

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COVID-19

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.

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