Photographs

10 churches in Indiana

St. Andrews Greek Orthodox Church
St. Andrews Greek Orthodox Church, South Bend, IN
Boyleston Baptist Church
Boyleston Baptist Church, Boyleston, IN
Ambassadors for Christ church
Ambassadors for Christ, South Bend, IN
Dabney Baptist Church
Dabney Baptist Church, Dabney, IN
Community Church
Community Church, New Carlisle, IN
Crooked Creek Baptist Church
Crooked Creek Baptist Church, Indianapolis, IN
First Church of Christ, Scientist
Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses (now Traders Point Christian Church), Indianapolis, IN
Argos Wesleyan Church
Argos Wesleyan Church, Argos, IN
New Ross
New Ross United Methodist Church, New Ross, IN
Light of the World Christian Church
Light of the World Christian Church, Indianapolis, IN

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Photographs

Second Presbyterian Church on Kodak Plus-X

After being sure that my Olympus XA’s meter was performing well enough, I shot more film in this delightful little camera. I’ve been itching to shoot some of the Kodak Plus-X I bought not long ago. This stock expired in February of 2000, but was stored frozen. I shot it at box speed, ISO 125.

I had reason to be at the grand, enormous Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis recently. I went early and brought the XA along to photograph this favorite subject.

Second Presbyterian

Usually I stop here, make one straight-on shot of either the whole church or its massive front, and move on. Only one other time have I walked the grounds looking for details to photograph.

Church doors

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.”

Church door

Over 1,500 people attended White’s funeral, including then-First Lady Barbara Bush, Michael Jackson, and Elton John, who performed two songs. Elton stopped in Indianapolis last month on his farewell tour. During his show, he said that Indianapolis is a “preeminent feature of my life,” because the Ryan White funeral marked a turning point in his life that led to his sobriety.

Gothic windows

Second Presbyterian might look very old, but the main part of the building was completed in 1960. There have been subsequent additions; I’m aware of one cornerstone that says 1967 and another with a date in the 2000s sometime.

Doorway

I made these photographs in about the middle of April, before most of the trees were budding. One advantage of early-spring photography is that trees don’t obscure my architectural subjects.

Second Presbyterian

You’ll find this church on the far Northside of Indianapolis, on the city’s main north-south street, Meridian Street. It’s just north of 75th Street. It is a commanding presence as you travel north on Meridian.

Second Presbyterian

I developed this film in Rodinal 1+50. My first scans of these negatives on my Plustek Opticfilm 8200i SE scanner were low in contrast and coarsely grained. I explored VueScan’s settings to see if I could improve the scans. I discovered that reducing the brightness a little, and setting VueScan’s grain-reduction setting to Medium, helped me achieve “that Plus-X look.”

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Photographs

15 church cornerstones

Church cornerstone
Pentax Spotmatic F, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar, Foma Fomapan 400, L110 B.
St. Mark's English Lutheran Church
Apple iPhone 6s
St. Joseph Catholic Church
Pentax K10D, smc PENTAX-DA 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 AL
Russell St. Baptist
Nikon F3, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor. Arista Premium 400 (exp. 11/2011)
1882
Apple iPhone 5
First Baptist
Apple iPhone 6s
North Liberty Christian Church cornerstone
Kodak EasyShare Z730
West Park Christian Church
Pentax ME, 50mm f/2 Pentax-M, Kodak Tri-X 400
Christ Lutheran Church cornerstone
Canon PowerShot S95
Vallonia United Methodist Church
Canon PowerShot S80
First Christian Church
Canon PowerShot S80
Brazil, IN
Kodak EasyShare Z730
Greensburg Methodist Episcopal Church
Kodak EasyShare Z730
Metea Baptist Church
Kodak EasyShare Z730
St. Joseph Catholic Church
Kodak EasyShare Z730

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Road Trips

The Michigan Road in southeastern Shelby County, Indiana

In 2008, I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end, documenting the road and its built environment. Here is an installment of that trip report.

Shelby County was organized in 1821. Because so many early Shelby County settlers were said to be from Kentucky, the county was named after Kentucky’s first governor, Isaac Shelby, who was a General in the Revolutionary War. Early settlers cut farms and towns out of “an unbroken and almost impenetrable woodland.” It also appears that a road known locally as “The Old State Road,” made as early as 1821, went from the Ohio River at Lawrenceburg to Napoleon, then through Shelby County from southeast to northwest. Given that through human history we’ve preferred to use and improve existing roads rather than build new ones, it seems likely to me that once the Old State Road got to Napoleon, it followed what became the Michigan Road’s route to Shelby County. (It also seems likely that the Old State Road followed Napoleon’s Main St, State Road 229, which becomes State Road 48 just outside of town and leads directly to Lawrenceburg.)

Not quite a mile inside Shelby County on the Michigan Road, just past Middletown, lies a one-lane bridge on a one-lane former alignment of the road. It’s labeled E 425 South on the map.

The bridge on the newer alignment looks like the kind of concrete bridge the state was building between the late 1910s and the 1930s. So I wager that the new alignment was built about the time the state took control of the road in the 1920s to provide a two-lane bridge over this creek. For whatever reason, they decided it was better to realign the road than to widen the old road and build a new bridge. I thank them for that!

Stone bridge, one-lane alignment

Here’s what it looks like to drive over the bridge and along this alignment.

Several homes and at least one farm lie along this short segment.

Stone bridge, one-lane alignment

The rutted pavement over the bridge is heavily patched. It looks to me as though several layers of pavement have raised the bridge’s deck.

Stone bridge, one-lane alignment

Sadly, this bridge collapsed in 2015 and was removed. Read the story here.

This is the road northbound just past the bridge. This is a two-way road, so I suppose that oncoming cars drive slightly off the road to pass each other.

One-lane alignment

A bit north of the one-lane alignment, the Michigan Road meets State Road 244.

South of SR 244 stands St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, its parsonage, its school, and its cemetery. This is the church, which was established in 1836. I didn’t find a cornerstone that dated this building, but the church’s first building was built here in 1839. This was one of the earliest Catholic parishes in Indiana. Until 1846, there were no Catholic churches in Indianapolis, and so the priest from St. Vincent’s traveled to Indianapolis to serve the Catholics there. This page shows a photo of an earlier building here.

St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church

This school stands just south of the church.

St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School

This appears to be the church’s parsonage.

Parsonage, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church

Behind the church, a cemetery stretches most of the way to I-74.

Cemetery, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church

This building stands just north of SR 244. It appears to be somebody’s home today, but it probably wasn’t built to be a private residence. The plaque above the middle second-floor window says “1909 St. Vincent’s Hall,” which suggests this building was at one time connected with the church. Above the cornice it reads, “Y.M.I. Bauer No. 574,” whatever that means.

Y.M.I Bauer No. 574

The Skyline Drive-In with its one screen stands a bit north of SR 244. (In 2020, my wife and I got a tour of the Skyline; read about it here.)

Skyline Drive-In

Next: The Michigan Road in Shelbyville.

I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.

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Essay, Photography, Travel

How to deal with difficult feelings about a photographic subject

First published 3 June 2016. I suppose every American has some baggage around 9/11, even those of us hundreds or thousands of miles away.

While we were in New York I couldn’t figure out how I felt about visiting the new World Trade Center and the neighboring memorial. Ambivalence gave way to curiosity, which yielded to revulsion. Then ambivalence returned and stayed. But visiting the site was on the must-do list for Margaret’s teenagers, who accompanied us. So off we went.

World Trade Center

I took just a few photos, and only these two are worth a darn. Above is the new World Trade Center, and below is the waterfall in the north pool of the memorial site directly to the south.

9/11 memorial

These photos offer no connection to the place. This could be any tall building; this could be any man-made waterfall. I think it’s because I didn’t want to be connected to this place. And the memorial felt sterile to me.

We walked from there a couple blocks to St. Paul’s Chapel. Margaret knew only that it was a 1766 church among the lower Manhattan skyscrapers, and that therefore she wanted to see it. We didn’t know its special, critical connection to the aftermath of 9/11.

St. Paul's Chapel

We learned that for eight months St. Paul’s Chapel was an aid and comfort station for everyone working the recovery. The building was open around the clock; volunteers fed and prayed with the workers and various doctors came to tend to their medical needs. Musicians even came to play for everyone.

Despite being so close to the collapsed towers, St. Paul’s survived without even a broken window.

St. Paul's Chapel

Even though this is still a functioning church with services every Sunday, memorial panels full of photographs line the north wall inside. I wasn’t prepared for that. I had hoped to get away from my feelings about 9/11 by just enjoying and photographing the architecture here. The only photos I took of the memorials are two photos of patches from police and fire forces around the world. They were sent here in a show of solidarity and mourning for their injured and dead comrades.

St. Paul's Chapel

The rest of my photographs were typical-of-me architecture shots, trying to record a solid sense of this building. Back in Indiana there are no buildings from 1766. It was a great joy to experience this one.

St. Paul's Chapel

It is a lovely church, perfectly maintained in every detail.

St. Paul's Chapel

We stepped out back and found a graveyard. In New York as in Indiana, churches used to bury their dead out back. It was surreal to see these very old gravestones amid the towering buildings all around. It was even more surreal to learn that in 1766, St. Paul’s Chapel was the tallest building in the city. I loved imagining a time when that would have been true. Apparently, the church was surrounded by orchards!

St. Paul's Chapel

St. Paul’s Chapel is a stunning building. But I recognized that because I couldn’t escape 9/11 here, I wasn’t connecting to it in the ways I normally would. And then I came upon the bell.

St. Paul's Chapel

It was a gift from the city of London to the city of New York after the attack, a symbol of friendship and solidarity across the oceans. This is where it all connected for me: this tragedy had worldwide reach, and it affected everyone who heard of it. There’s no shame that my feelings about 9/11 remain unsettled, uncertain. I cried here for a minute, quietly.

I shot my Canon S95 raw, which meant a lot of post-processing in Photoshop when I got home. It takes a little time to tweak each photograph for its best look. It gave me time to process not only my feelings about our visit to these sites but also more of my feelings about 9/11 itself. While processing photos, I slowly reviewed the day and thought about each scene, including those I didn’t photograph. That time and space to think, alone in my quiet home office, let me find a little more peace.

One photograph I didn’t take was of one of the pews. A few years ago St. Paul’s removed most of its pews, replacing them with individual chairs arranged in a U. But a couple pews remained in the back. In this church so perfectly maintained, the pews were gashed and gouged and chewed up — by the heavy shoes and gear of the recovery workers who rested on them. These pews remain as a memorial.

It was emotionally difficult to follow the news stories of the recovery work in the months following the attack. I dealt with it by dissociating from it. But seeing those gouged pews made those people and their experiences real. And so I don’t need a photograph of those pews; I’ll never forget them.

Canon PowerShot S95, shot raw, processed in Photoshop.

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Inside St. Paul's Chapel

Inside St. Paul’s Chapel
Apple iPhone 6s
2016

St. Paul’s Chapel stands in the shadow of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. When the twin towers fell and first responders rushed in to do what they could, the work quickly overwhelmed and exhausted them. St. Paul’s took them in and cared for them.

When Margaret and I visited a few years ago I made a number of photographs with my Canon S95. But they were all detail shots, with the camera up close. I failed to stand back and photograph the whole space with it.

I don’t remember making this photo with my iPhone. I’m not sure why I used it rather than my S95. But when I came upon this image recently, I sure was glad to find it.

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Photography

single frame: Inside St. Paul’s Chapel

A look inside St. Paul’s Chapel in Manhattan, built 1766.

Image