The challenge of photography

Because of its unusual slope as it crosses the Saint Joseph river to connect the two sections of the IU South Bend campus, the red bridge is hard to photograph well, especially if one’s purpose is to create the inspiring or magisterial images used to promote a university among citizens, potential students and their parents, legislators, and donors.

This image, featured on a section of the IU South Bend website in 2018, almost entirely masks the slope of the bridge, which is not easy to do.

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Only the small section of the bridge at the far left here, on the north bank, is actually level where it passes over the roadway on Riverside Drive. The main part of the bridge portrayed here slopes substantially toward the bank on the south side of the river. The photographer and/or the Photoshop artist worked skillfully to obscure these facts in the promotional image. Many campus images mask the bridge’s unusual sloping structure as it passes over the river.

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This still image taken from a promotional video gives a better sense of the slope from the north to the south bank. The campus is proud of its mission serving the citizens of the region but tends to hide the architecture of the red bridge.

Rather than hiding the bridge’s design in its publications, I suggest that it should be foregrounded and even celebrated on t-shirts and buttons as a way of looking history, economics, and higher education in Indiana more squarely in the eye.

Knowing more about ourselves increases our chances to do good work going forward.

Indiana University limestone

Limestone is a sedimentary rock, composed mainly of skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral, forams, and molluscs. Its major materials are the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate, CaCO3. (Wikipedia)

For more than 135 years, limestone has also provided the preferred finishing material for the home of Bloomington’s best-known resident: Indiana University. (Lee Sandweiss)

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Above, a close-up of skeletal fragments in the brutalist facade of Wiekamp Hall* on the IU South Bend campus. The Indiana University Campus Limestone Tour map features photographs and descriptions of thirty buildings featuring limestone exteriors on the large Bloomington campus of IU. Guided walking tours are available that explore the range of styles visible in the major campus buildings:

“Popular architectural styles get revisited,” explained [Brian] Keith. “There is a blend of styles on the IU campus, including variations on Gothic—Victorian Gothic and Collegiate Gothic, in particular—Romanesque Revival, Second Empire, Art Deco and Modern. There is even a style that’s actually ‘no style,’ which we call a functional building.” (Lee Sandweiss)

Limestone weighs about 150 pounds per cubic foot and can be dangerous to work with. Fatalities in the quarrying, preparation, and construction phases of using limestone for building exteriors are not unknown.

The limestone industry forms an important part of southern Indiana history and culture. It has inspired literary works by notable Hoosier writers such as Scott Russell Sanders.

When residents of Indiana visit a campus of their largest state university, they can expect to see buildings faced with metonymic and synecdochic Indiana limestone.

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*According to campus lore, when Wiekamp Hall was bid out for construction, the cost of the limestone was too high and a message was sent to the state’s quarry companies saying that it would be unfortunate if this major building would be the first in the state-wide IU system without a limestone facade. The story concludes with the limestone being offered at a much-reduced price.

Who?

These pieces were not written by the late British poet, Ken Smith (1938-2003), nor the other Ken Smiths who make bass guitars, study marine biology, sell cars, teach card counting, paint war scenes in oils, guide bear hunters in Idaho, teach forest management, study immunology, do war reporting, sell real estate, photograph nature, teach cryptology, provide legal counsel to the gay and lesbian community, realign the spines of athletes, listen for seismic faults in the Sierra Nevadas, operate a 4-axis milling machine, work for sustainable development in Alberta, play blackjack, or criticize Junk English. Nor were the pieces written by the Ken Smith who is “the Elvis Costello of Landscape Architecture” nor the one who has served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives nor the one who hit a home run for the Atlanta Braves in 1983. I only wish.