St. James’ Gate
Nikon N2000, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor
Kodak T-Max 400

We went to the Guinness Storehouse while we were in Dublin. Meh.

Film Photography, Travel
Main Street, South Bend

You can still find many rumbly brick streets in the old parts of South Bend. This lonely block of Main Street connects Leeper Park to Memorial Hospital. It once ran south into downtown, but the hospital long ago oozed across the road. Hospitals have a way of doing that.

My brother once lived on this block. One by one, Memorial Hospital bought the houses, razed them, and paved a giant parking lot. My brother’s house was the last one to go. The fellow from whom he rented wouldn’t sell, so the hospital simply waited until he passed away.

Kodak Z730 Zoom, 2009. “Captured” is an occasional series where I show a photo and tell a short story about it. This was the first ever Captured photo, from February of 2010. I’m rerunning it today to give me more time to get ready for my wedding this Saturday!

Photography, Preservation

Captured: Main Street, South Bend


Documenting the rapidly changing built environment

Writing yesterday about the changes to my childhood neighborhood before I was born made me think about how much an intersection near my northwest Indianapolis home has changed in the 20 years I’ve lived near it.

The area surrounding 56th Street and Georgetown Road is filled today with shopping centers, gas stations, and modern suburban neighborhoods. But when I moved here in 1994, the area was mostly farmland with one area of concentrated shopping. In the years since, the farms sold out and everything else was built. To accommodate the extra traffic that followed, 56th Street was widened to four lanes and extra turn lanes were added on Georgetown Road. And then some of the original commercial buildings were razed and new ones were built. Three of the four corners feature different buildings from what was there when I moved here. Clearly, this intersection has got it going on. Further proof: It has become one of the most accident-prone intersections in the city.

I looked at the historic aerial images available at MapIndy to see how the area developed before I arrived. I was surprised to find that the biggest boom happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s, just before I arrived. I was even more surprised to find that Georgetown Road has existed only since the 1960s! I compiled some of the aerial photos into a short video that shows the dramatic changes. Take a look:

This exercise started me thinking about doing more documentary photography of the built environment. It can change so rapidly! It struck me that I can’t remember what the buildings on the northeast and southeast corners looked like before the current ones were built. They were both gas stations; I filled up my car at both of them. I remember only that they had just a couple of pumps apiece and cars always had to wait in line to fill up.

I’ve spent some time around this intersection when looking for subjects for my vintage cameras. This Marathon station stands on the northeast corner. I shot it in late 2013 with my Olympus Stylus.


A CVS stands right next door to the Marathon station. I shot its sign in 2008 with my Argus C3.


I shot some of the fast-food joints north of the CVS on the same trip. I was really shooting the cop cars, but because I hadn’t learned to move in close to my subject yet I got a lot of the surrounding context.

The cops gotta eat sometime

I had my Argus A2B in 2011 in my hand when I shot this Wendy’s sign. You can see the Boston Market’s sign, the CVS, and the Marathon station in the background of this southbound shot.

Boston Market lurking

While these aren’t strictly documentary photographs, they do help put together what Georgetown Road looks like. This strip hasn’t changed much since 2008. But it almost certainly will change, and then these could perhaps be a rare record of what the area once looked like. I wish I had been out here with my cameras before all this was built!

It’s not like anything along these roads is special – it’s just typical suburban architecture, common as pennies. But who knows what will happen here in 20 years? Will decay set in, making these photos a startling look at these buildings when they were sparkling new? Or will the area continue to prosper, driving redevelopment, making these photos a record of what used to be here? Either way, common architecture has a way of evolving. If my blog is still here in 20 years, someone might just stumble upon this page and exclaim with nostalgia, “I remember when Marathon stations all used to look like that!”

See also how the intersection of 86th St. and Michigan Road has changed. Go here.


Autumn on Kessler Boulevard

George Kessler

George Kessler (1862-1923) was a pioneer city planner who believed that cities could be beautiful – lush and green, with limited pollution. Many American cities hired him to design their park and boulevard systems, including all three Indiana cities in which I have lived – South Bend, Terre Haute, and Indianapolis. Someday I need to write a series of posts about Kessler’s work in all three cities, because his work has shaped my very notion of what a city is.

Yet when I moved to Indianapolis almost 20 years ago, I didn’t know Kessler’s name or anything about him. But I was very drawn to the sprawling early-suburban neighborhoods along a wide, tree-lined road that bears his name. I’ve owned two houses within spitting distance of the beautiful boulevard he designed in 1922.

The boulevard skirted the city limits when it was built, but today it forms a west/north inner beltway. It begins on the west side, just east of the speedway at 16th Street, and heads north four miles to 56th Street. Then it heads east across town a bit more than seven miles, almost to Fort Benjamin Harrison on the Northeastside. Kessler was hired in 1923 to oversee the boulevard’s construction, but he passed away before much work was done. This is why the boulevard is named for him.

Kessler Boulevard is lovely end to end, but my favorite segment is on the Westside between 30th St. and about I-65. Homes were built along it in the 1950s, all  of them ranches set well back from the road. It creates a wide-open feeling that captures that 1950s feeling of prosperity and modernity. Trees line the boulevard, and when autumn comes the colors can be spectacular. I recently filmed a drive along this stretch, northbound from 30th St.

I drive this stretch all the time and I enjoy it at all times of year. Thanks, George Kessler!

Another historic Indianapolis road is the Dandy Trail. Read about it here, here, and here.

Film Photography

Captured: Share the road

Share the road

Indianapolis has become a little more bicycle friendly over the past few years, with some city streets being restriped to add bicycle lanes and many other streets being marked to remind drivers to share the road. As sanitary sewer has been extended into my part of town over the past couple years, the city has taken advantage of the resulting tearing up of streets to reconfigure some of them for safer bike travel. I would have liked nearby Grandview Drive to be widened for bike lanes, as it is narrow and frequently busy. All it got were these Share the Road symbols.

Grandview wasn’t busy the day I took this photo because it was closed for bridge construction. Naturally, that made me want to ride my bike on it! I love to slip one of my small film cameras into my pocket when I ride, and that day my little Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 was loaded with Kodak T-Max 400 and ready to go along.