I often joke that I take the “Quantity over Quality” approach to photography. But today was a notable exception. I traveled back to my hometown of Shelby, Ohio, for a speaking engagement. And while I was there, I only took two photographs. But they both turned out beautifully, capturing the essence of the experience in profound ways that I could not have accomplished better with a hundred images.
One photograph features the sign that greets visitors driving into Shelby from the east, along State Route 96. It says, “Shelby: Birthplace 1890 of the Seamless Steel Tube Industry in America.” I’ve previously tried some, let’s say “medium-intensity” internet searching for this phrase or this image. But apparently, there’s some debate about the history of the seamless steel tube industry (worldwide, and also in America). In fact, there may be no one outside of Shelby, Ohio, who would corroborate such a narrative about the birthplace of the seamless steel tube industry. But I definitely remembered that phrase from my childhood. And today I at least managed to corroborate Shelby’s historical narrative with a sign.
Regardless of the historical facts, I love the way that this sign points to something essential about Shelby: its industrialism, its working class roots, and its pride in its history (especially its hey-day at the height of the Industrial Revolution). So, when I saw the sign on my way into town, I decided to stop for a picture. November provided its signature cement-colored skies in the background. Fallow farm fields stretched on either side. The sign has been pock-marked by time and teenagers with BB guns. So, it just feels like one of the Shelbiest pictures of all time.
My speaking engagement was at the First Baptist Church of Shelby, where my Dad served as the pastor from 1987 to 1995. A lot of my childhood was spent in and around that community and its building on the West side of town. So, when I saw the midday light shining through that stain-glassed window, I knew that I wanted to grab a picture. Such evocative colors and textures! I used to think those windows — and indeed the whole building — were kind of ugly. Very different from ornate Catholic cathedrals or top-of-the-line “Seeker Sensitive” multi-purpose facilities of the late 20th Century. For whatever reason, on this visit, I was able to see the facilities for what they are: Mid-Century Modern. Consistent with the time period in which the building was erected.
First Baptist Church is beautiful in its own way. And I’m thankful for the part that it’s played in my life. The window seems emblematic of this perspective shift and this space. And I like the way that I framed the shot: simple, symmetrical, and suggestive of its broader surroundings. It just feels like First Baptist. And I’m thankful for what First Baptist has meant to me.
So that’s it. I just wanted to share these images. All of the ones I took today in Shelby.