I recently wrote about this blog post: 1:1000, A Picture is Worth 1000 Words written by Julianna Whalen on her site, Streets and Streams. Her idea is to write 1,000 words about one photo. I experimented with that idea with this post (https://jeffkisling.com/2019/01/27/1-photo-1000-words/) about a photo taken during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March.
I’d like to try that idea with this more challenging photo.
This is one of a series of photographs I took while walking in my neighborhood on the near North side of Indianapolis. Signs on the building indicated this was the Indy Art building.
I spent a lot of time walking because I refused to own a car for environmental reasons. As a result, I selected places to live that were:
- on a city bus route
- close to my work at Riley Hospital for Children in downtown Indianapolis
- within walking distance of a grocery store
- had laundry facilities
Those were the reasons I was walking in this neighborhood this day.
I had been a photographer since I was about 14 years old, when I bought an inexpensive 35 mm camera while in downtown Chicago. I was there with a group of Young Leaders, who volunteered as lifeguards at the YMCA in Marshalltown, Iowa. Our reward for a summer of work at the Y was a trip to Racine, Wisconsin, where we learned how to scuba dive in the YMCA swimming pool. We stopped in Chicago on the way home. I just now found the Young Leaders program continues there in Racine: https://ymcaracine.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/YLA/YLA%20TA%20Brochure_0.pdf
I would mail the exposed film off to be processed, and prints made until I learned how to develop film and prints in a darkroom. I first began to learn how to do this when attending Scattergood Friends School, a co-ed, Quaker boarding High School on a working farm near West Branch, Iowa. I was given about half an hour of instruction, and then on my own. I ruined several rolls of film before I began to refine the required skills.
I took a photography course and worked on the Year Book at Marshalltown Community College. I was asked to be a darkroom instructor the following semester but moved back to Indianapolis, instead.
In several apartments I lived in Indianapolis I set up a darkroom in the bathroom, sealing the windows and door as well as I could to prevent light from entering. When I was a member of the Friends Volunteer Service Mission in inner city Indianapolis (early 1970’s), I taught the neighborhood kids how to develop film and prints. We would take cameras with us as we rode bicycles around the city to take photos.
I was really glad for the ‘development’ of digital photography. The first digital cameras had pretty low resolution (3,000 pixels) and slow processor speeds. At first I wasn’t sure digital images would ever have the resolution of silver emulsion film, but digital cameras improved dramatically, with greater resolution and faster processors. Today my digital camera has a resolution of 24 megapixels.
Besides getting away from all the hassles of film and print development in a darkroom, the important thing for me about digital photography was the sudden freedom to take thirty or forty photographs a day, which became common for me. With film, you were very careful about how many photographs you took. There were usually 12 or 24 exposures on a roll, and every time you filled up the roll, you had to process the negatives, and then print them. With a digital camera you can take as many photos as will fit on the camera’s memory card. Those memory cards can be 64 gigabytes or larger and able to hold hundreds of high resolution images.
That meant I could take a lot of shots, experimenting with composition, focus, shutter speed, depth of field, lighting, contrast and color by taking multiple shots of a single scene. The digital camera was a great teaching tool. I could immediately see the results of a photo on the camera itself, and make adjustments right then, and take a new photo. I challenged myself to try to capture difficult images, with challenging lighting or composition, to try to get better at capturing such images. This photograph is an example of experimenting with a complex image.
So, returning to the photograph, I was walking around the neighborhood with a digital camera because I didn’t own a car and I love photography. Those two complement each other. I wouldn’t have nearly the depth of experience with photography if I wasn’t walking all the time. That allowed me to really “see” the world I was walking through, and meant I had the opportunities to actually photograph what I was seeing. There is a creative cycle, where the closer you look, the more you see. Then as how you see improves, that leads you to see even more.
I had walked past the Indy Art building many times. Besides the art display area pictured above, the building also had about 4 floors of apartments for rent. There were often people sitting on the steps of the entry to the apartments.
In the photo you can see the art display area has large windows which provide good light. You can also see the checkerboard tile floor. The art displays changed every couple of weeks.
Looking across the street, through the windows on the left, that building is part of a Catholic Church. On Saturday’s free lunch was provided for the local homeless people.
When I walked past the Indy Art building the morning this photo was taken, I noticed the conical shapes with sides of a circular web pattern suspended in the windows. As I began to try to shoot images of those shapes, I noticed the reflections of the glass changed dramatically as I moved around to capture different aspects of those conical objects.
I began to pay more attention to the shadows and reflections of the windows the conical shapes were suspended behind. The photo above was taken when I noticed extreme differences in the reflections. The bottom half of the photo allows you to see through the window glass. It is transparent. But the position of the camera and the position of the sun caused the upper half of the image to be of reflected light, instead. I like the resulting split-image.
The photo was taken in the late fall, winter, or early spring because the trees don’t have leaves.
Finally, photographers usually try to avoid being in the photo themselves, either from reflections or even their shadows. At the bottom right of the photo is my reflection. I noticed that at the time I took the photo, but thought it added to the reflections that were the statement the photo was making. I see I was wearing one of my Indianapolis Mini Marathon hats. The Mini Marathon is a half marathon (13.1 miles) that is run annually as part of the Indianapolis 500 Festival events. The course begins in downtown Indianapolis, so close to where this image was taken and where I lived then that I would walk to the starting line of the race. And drag myself home after running the 13.1 miles. The course goes out to the Indianapolis 500 track where we run around the racetrack, and then head back downtown. Running the Mini Marathon, as I did 22 times/years, provided a goal for the running I did because I didn’t own a car.