If you’re not a subscriber to Jim Grey’s excellent newsletter or regular visitor to his blog, stop reading right now and do yourself a favor: subscribe directly. At least go visit his blog. Grey writes about his life: his career, his family, and his experience with both, alongside camera reviews, film reviews, and, occasionally, the great little photobooks he makes.
Vinyl Village is Grey’s newest. It’s a not-quite-so loving look at his neighborhood, a pleasant-enough looking suburb of Indianapolis, where the schools are great, shopping is nearby and convenient, and houses are relatively inexpensive. Grey isn’t the hugest fan of the place, but he’s also a pragmatist, and living there is what’s best for his family at this time.
In many ways, I’m reminded of the neighborhood I live in. Like Grey, the house sorta came with my darling, adorable wife. Grey’s wife rented the house when they married, and they later bought it from landlord; my wife owned this house and rented it to a family; when they heard she married, they bought another house and moved out. I couldn’t afford to live in this house if she didn’t already own it, and if I could, I’d never dream of doing so. It’s a great, beautiful, lovely home, but it’s not really my style or anything and my punk rock background has a strong anarchist, “property ownership is theft” shade to it. Plus, home ownership is expensive and loaded with responsibilities that may not be quite overshadowed by the relative freedom it affords. Anyway.
Unlike Grey’s neighborhood, this one features rather huge custom homes, mostly all brick or stucco, and there’s no high-tension power line or buried petroleum pipeline running through the neighborhood. While we’re near the intersection of two major highways, the traffic noise is distant. The one complaint, from a location standpoint: we’re about 10 minutes from DFW Airport and right in the flightpath. Before the pandemic, flights went overhead every 4 or 5 minutes (sometimes more often) from about 5am to 10pm. Forget trying to have a conversation outside. At the start of the pandemic, the silence was golden and rapturous; now, the planes have returned, but not in quite the same frequency. (If you’ve watched any of my unboxings, you’ll hear planes in the background with some regularity.) Also, a big watertower sits just to the east and is visible from nearly everywhere. I made a one-off photobook about it for my mother in law… but that’s neither here nor there.
Grey’s neighborhood is a bit older than mine and the trees are all bigger; the houses in his, while they lack the fences of ours, all sit on much larger lots. Ours are all jammed together, with the builders mostly building the most house possible on any given lot. At 3200 square feet, our house is one of the smallest, if you can believe that. Many neighborhood homes top 6000 square feet, and most sit on slightly smaller lots than our 1/3 of an acre. Like Grey’s, telecommunications boxes sit between the houses, but our neighborhood sits on a lake of clay, and so the random-shaped boxes are all tilted hither and thither. If they look like teeth in Grey’s neighborhood, they look like British teeth in mine, and none of the neighbors think to hide them… I may have to start a trend.
Anyway. I like this little zine book thing. Grey had it printed through Amazon, and mine was printed just down the road in Carrolton. I was quite impressed with it initially (and, really, remain so), but a few weeks ago, Grey mentioned how disappointed he was with the print quality. Looking at it now, I see what he means. The contrast is a bit low, and there’s some jaggedy edges, especially on diagonal lines, that scream low-res digital printing. That said, if he hadn’t pointed it out, I probably wouldn’t notice at all.
Grey took all the pictures on various black & white film stocks, and developed and scanned in his upstairs bathroom. He’s sorta new to home developing, and I’ve been interested to follow his process. He had many more misgivings than I did when I first jumped in, back in 2014, but, like me, quickly figured out that it’s pretty easy. There’s a uniformity to the images that really works and I’m impressed that he got such similar results from the variety of cameras and films he worked with.
Unrated, Highly Recommended.
You can find Vinyl Village direct from Grey himself, though Amazon. It’s $10, and an absolute steal. Note that Amazon may sit on your order for a few days until they can ship it in a box with something else. They did that with me anyway, and I don’t buy much from Amazon. Anyway. Do visit Grey’s blog and subscribe to his newsletter. It’s a daily treat that I always look forward to and appreciate.