Afterword to 2nd Stories

When Lynn and I begin a book project like this, we start with a rough idea of where it will lead, but we don’t even guess at what the final result will be. We’ve learned that, soon enough, our venture will take on a life of its own—urging us to go certain places, to include this, to omit that. We’ve both learned to trust, and dutifully follow, this intuitive process, because it always seems to be right.

When the idea for 2nd Stories first emerged, we were already aware of interesting things up in the air. After all, being two people who enjoy looking around wherever we go, we had seen many of them. While we had no idea of the variety we would eventually come across, we just knew we’d find what we needed—and we did. For example, early on, we hadn’t thought of including images of stairways. But as we started shooting, there they were—obviously important aspects of our journey. In the end, what makes a project like this so enjoyable is the evolution, the exploring, and the mysterious inevitability of it all.

Having become familiar with much of southern Indiana during explorations for our two previous photography books, we decided, once again, to limit our travels to that part of the state lying south of U.S. 40. Comprehensively covering all of Indiana would have simply been too big a project, and including images from all ninety-two counties would have shortchanged our subject. At first, we considered driving up and down every numbered highway in our chosen territory. But, as the project unfolded, it seemed like it would be more revealing to go through each town marked on our map, many of which were on less-traveled side roads.

So that’s we ending up doing. By driving 12,000 miles on a long series of day trips, we visited a total of 912 cities and towns—every single one shown on our official 2000 Indiana highway map. To help us find the out-of-the way places, we relied on an accordion folder filled with county maps. Still, we occasionally got lost, and had to depend on a compass to find our way to a recognizable landmark.

We roamed through cities and towns, large and small, ranging from major population centers (Indianapolis and Evansville) to tiny, nearly forgotten hamlets. While many of the communities retained their charm and vitality, others had vanished—a few so much so that there was absolutely nothing left, not even a stop sign.

Of course, we could have gotten plenty of pictures by limiting our search to county seats and bigger cities. But, if we had done that, we would have missed some real treasures in Indiana’s smallest towns—such as the quaint schoolhouse in Philomath (page 121); Waverly’s ethereal Methodist church (page 70); the deteriorating, yet noble, school tower in Raleigh (page 69); or the St. Boniface Church steeple in Fulda (page 106). Even though the majority of the places we visited didn’t make the pages of this book, we are quite pleased to have passed through them, because these small towns are where much of Indiana’s everyday history took place. Besides, it was a great deal of fun.

As is typical, we waited until midway through our project before approaching someone to write the Foreword. That’s because it takes some time on the road, and in the darkroom, before a book starts to form a unique and cohesive identity. At first, we consider a wide range of possible candidates. Then, as images begin accumulating, and themes start materializing, we shorten our list to the most suitable contributors.

With 2nd Stories, Lynn suggested Michael Atwood early in the process—as we watched him host “Across Indiana” on Public Television one evening. Because his name came up so quickly, we felt obliged to consider other possibilities, but no one seemed as appropriate. In short, Michael Atwood, with his long-time interest in all things Hoosier, and his insightful wit, was the perfect choice. After reading his Foreword, we’re sure you’ll agree. So, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank him for his kind and touching words.

We’d also like to express our gratitude to all the individuals who shared their time, stories, and special buildings with us. It was very refreshing to meet people with such a passion for their work and their surroundings. Finally, I’d like to offer a special thanks to the Indiana Arts Commission for awarding me an Individual Artist Grant to help in the publication of this book. —JB