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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Rising Hall

Rising Hall
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2009

On the National Road in Indiana, in Hendricks County right at the Putnam County line, you’ll find this 1872 home known as Rising Hall. It’s named after what staircases were sometimes called — this home has five staircases.

It was in sorry condition in the 1980s when Walt and June Prosser bought it and began its restoration. They completed it in the early 1990s and frequently invited the public in to tour it. You can watch a short documentary about the restoration here.

Walt Prosser died in 2010, aged 86. I haven’t found an obituary for his wife, June, so perhaps she still lives in Rising Hall.

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Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

single frame: Rising Hall

A view of Rising Hall, an 1872 home on Indiana’s National Road.

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Up the steps to the porch

Old farmhouse
Pentax IQZoom 170SL
Kodak T-Max 400
Rodinal 1+50
2020

My subdivision used to be farmland. When I moved to central Indiana a quarter century ago, I occasionally drove out this way and it was as rural as rural can be. Now it’s all vinyl villages and shopping centers.

An old farmhouse lies around the corner from my house. It’s on a parcel that I’d guess covers just a few acres. A family still lives there — is it the original family that sold the rest of the land for this subdivision?

These steps lead to the farmhouse’s front door, but it’s clear that nobody’s used that door in a long time.

The road I stood on to make this photograph used to be a state highway, but not since the 1960s when it was moved to intersect with the nearby Interstate highway. Now this old road is just the back way into my section of the neighborhood, and it dead ends when it reaches it.

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Film Photography

single frame: Old farmhouse

A look at an old farmhouse in the middle of a suburban neighborhood.

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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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Old house

Old house
Argus Argoflex Forty
Kodak Verichrome Pan (expired 6/1980)
2019

One more from the Argoflex Forty as I finish writing my review. I was in Lebanon on an errand and brought the camera along.

This photo was late in the roll. Winding had always been uneven, but by this frame there was a spot during winding where I had to turn the knob hard.

For whatever reason the film didn’t wind evenly onto the takeup spool and spilled past the spool’s edge on one side. I didn’t notice that until a few days after I took the film out of the camera, which allowed light to leak onto the edges of some frames, as here.

Nice old house though. I’d guess it dates to before 1850.

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Film Photography, Preservation

single frame: Old house

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