Second Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis

Ghostly church
Kodak Six-20
Kodak Plus-X
2010

The first time I photographed Second Presbyterian I was shooting my folding Kodak Six-20 and some Plus-X that I bought pre-respooled as 620 from B&H. The entire roll came back looking like this, to my disappointment.

I came across the negatives recently and they look normal. My wife bought me a new flatbed film scanner for my birthday, and it takes medium-format film, so I may try scanning the negs myself when I get moved and settled.

I’ve reviewed the Kodak Six-20 twice: here and here.

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Photography

single frame: Ghostly church

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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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Photography

The evolution of the Eastern Star Church

It had been a cornfield, this plot across from my neighborhood. Once in a while I’d get stuck on the main road behind a tractor or a harvester that had just completed some work here. Right in the middle of Indianapolis. And then one day about seven years ago heavy equipment cleared a dense line of trees by the road, revealing the fallow field beyond. This sign went up, followed by the framework behind it.

Church Coming Soon

As the trees came down I figured a neighborhood would be built here. I wasn’t excited. The road is narrow and busy enough without a hundred more cars trying to get in and out every day.

Church construction

And so I was happy that our new neighbor would be a church. And not just any church: the giant and well-known Eastern Star Church.

Sunrise over the unfinished church

This nearly 100-year-old congregation began to experience explosive growth about 30 years ago. Since then it has planted three new churches and expanded from one to three locations around central Indiana. This is the third and newest location.

Eastern Star Church

The church has been a respectful neighbor. They designed their parking lot so that it empties not only onto the main road, but also through a neighborhood to the north and the cemetery through the south, to disperse exiting cars evenly.

Eastern Star

Traffic moves pretty smoothly on the main road every Sunday morning, especially since police are always on hand to direct traffic. Sometimes I happen to return home from my church as Eastern Star lets out, and I seldom have to wait more than a minute to turn into my subdivision.

Eastern Star Church

The church brought an unexpected benefit: it extended my ability to take an evening stroll. My little subdivision has but five streets. Walking the same loop gets old fast. But now I can cut quickly through the church’s parking lot to reach the large cemetery beyond. It’s a nice, long, varied walking loop. I could walk there before, but I had to either walk a mile on the shoulders of busy roads, or drive. So I never did it.

Eastern Star Church

So why do I have so many photographs of the church? Because I’m forever testing a new-to-me old film camera, and the church is an easy subject. I can walk to it in five minutes.

Eastern Star Church

And so I’ve captured it in all seasons and at nearly all times of day. These photos are in chronological order, by the way.

Eastern Star

Really, little has changed since construction ended. A little more landscaping. The signs out front are a little different now. The trees, so spindly when planted, are filling out.

Eastern Star Church

It’s interesting to me to review these photographs and see how the church and its grounds appear on various films, through various lenses, at various times of day.

Eastern Star Church

We think we know a thing or a place because we pass by it all the time. But I think we easily come to fail to actually see it — our minds have put it into a box, have made it a known quantity.

Eastern Star Church

These photos show some of the variables that go into what a place looks like. This church’s structure is certainly fixed. But how we see it is not.

Eastern Star

Moreover, you would see it differently from me.  I would enjoy seeing how you would photograph this same place.

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Church bus

Church bus
Nikon N8008, 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6 AF Nikkor
Kodak Tri-X 400
2017

I went on my first of three mission trips to Mexico 13 years ago, riding this bus nonstop from Indiana. We even slept, badly, on its cramped seats. But now this bus is discarded, moldering in a field.

Hazelwood church is in farm country about a half hour west of Indianapolis and a few minutes south of US 40. It’s a surprisingly large and active church for being so rural.

Photography

Photo: Church bus.

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Photography

Shooting the 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax lens

I am wasting my time shooting any normal prime lens on my Pentax cameras other than this 55mm f/1.8. Just look at this! Such color, such sharpness, such sensitive detail! On workaday Kodak Gold 400 no less!

At Second Presbyterian Church

On the same day I photographed Second Presbyterian Church with a 28mm lens, I brought my Pentax K1000 with this 55mm f/1.8 lens too. While that 28mm lens really brought this giant church into the frame, this 55mm lens did a much better job of capturing the church’s detailed beauty.

At Second Presbyterian Church

That Kodak Gold 400 surely likes red. And this lens handles beautifully.

At Second Presbyterian Church

I took the K1000 and this lens to several favorite photographic haunts, including Juan Solomon Park. I’ve shot its colorful playground many times since it opened several years ago.

At Juan Solomon Park

There’s actually been a playground here since before I moved to Indy in the 1990s. The city just redid it from the ground up when they used this park site for a building that is part of an expansion of sewage services to this part of the city. The old playground was fine, but the new one is top flight. I especially love the colorful play surface of soft replaceable tiles.

At Juan Solomon Park

I also took the K1000 over to Broad Ripple one chilly day for a walk. I’ve photographed this unusual bridge railing many times. The bridge was built in 1906, but a couple years ago the railing was altered. The row of blocks below the links was added, I assume to increase the railing’s height for safety. The purist in me thinks this was a shame.

Rainbow Bridge

I just thought the painting on this dumpster enclosure was interesting.

Dumpster Enclosure

I usually shoot my 50/1.4 SMC Pentax-M lens on my K-mount cameras, but it doesn’t deliver the color or detail that 55/1.8 does. I’ll just admit it: I use that 50/1.4 partially because of that vaunted 1.4 number, as if it says something about me as a photographer. Nuts to it. I’ll let my work do the talking. And with this 55/1.8, I’ll definitely have something to say.

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At West Park Christian Church

Curved pews
Pentax KM, 28mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax-M
Kodak Tri-X
2017

I know of only one other church in town with curved pews: the former Central Methodist Church, now Indiana Landmarks Center. Their pews, like their whole facility, are lovingly restored. Our pews, like our whole building, could use a lot of love. An exuberant teenager sat too hard on one of our pews a couple years ago and broke it. My father, a cabinetmaker, and I glued it back together as best we could. It was clear it had been repaired many times.

Photography

Photo: Curved pews at West Park Christian Church

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