Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Polyvalent Images in a World of Scapes

Written by: on October 14, 2019

Polyvalent Images May Be Invisible in a World of Scapes

We moved from a very nice condominium in south-central Ohio to what is called near-east Indianapolis, before the recent purchase of our new home just outside the near-east. The near-east home was located on Denny Street where during any night from January to September we did not know if we were hearing fireworks or gunfire. Usually, it was a mixture of both. At each end of the street, near the alley entrance, we ignorantly could not figure out how come it took several months for three men or more to finish working on the same cars. Later, we learned by watching the local news that a raid unearthed the invisible. This multipart image was a stage for selling drugs, guns, and people; a lot of each.


All this was in a neighborhood that was once called the Hollywood District. RCA had a six-square block plant where electronic devices were built for Hollywood and radio parts were built for NBC. Neighbors say in all of Indianapolis it was the place to live, because one had a good-paying job, they could walk to work, good schools, churches were in walking distance, kids could play outside with their friends; even at night, plus if they worked at RCA for some period of time their house was paid for by the company.

Since the working adults had no need to drive to work, church, or the grocery store there was not a need for a car. So, none of the homes have a garage within about a half-mile circumference. The homes are of similar design because they were purchased by RCA for the employees out of Sears catalogs. Many homebound seniors I met to suffer from isolation issues. Yet talking with them the images of yesterday seem to overlay the suffering of today even if it’s just for a moment. Therefore, I try to keep them talking about their favorite memories. I think Ms. Pink would say that this is a way for me to help hone my ethnography skills.

Before Pam and I began looking for a home to purchase, we thought we would try to find a new rental to try and cut down the chronic earshot ethnography! Today, though, many of the homes are being repainted and yards dressed up while the interiors look much like the following.

When Pam and first arrived, we were much more willing to talk with our neighbors. We chose to talk to those who looked like they were longtime residents. One could almost see their memories coming out in polyvalent pictures as they talked about how beautiful and safe their neighborhood once was; before RCA closed and their lost their jobs.

After the plant was excavated, a nearly six-block pad of concrete lays bare of any legal or productive activity. Maybe after the EPA gets ahold of this, in twenty years or so, the neighborhood will have a park with homes that will shove out the long-term residents: Gentrification.

I volunteer as a pastor and my wife works for a compassionate agency that is seeking to bring new life to the neighborhood which encompasses two zip codes: rebuilding or remodeling 145 homes, serving meals, driving people to their doctors’ appointments, and now helping remodel an elementary school due to be demolished in a beautiful center for low cost senior living and daycare. (Pam brings home the bacon- we’ve either switched as the butcher or both brought home pig parts in our married life).

A twenty-second video reveals some of the school prior to what the rejuvenation appears like above.




Looking past a world of scapes and discovering a world of polyvalent images!




About the Author

Steve Wingate

6 responses to “Polyvalent Images in a World of Scapes”

  1. Jer Swigart says:


    Your article is a fusion of visual ethnography and a theology and history of place. Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your neighborhood. As you shared, I was transported to the neighborhoods of St. Louis which are abandoned now but were once thriving neighborhoods like you describe above. I remember noticing the lack of garages in one particular neighborhood, but my assumptions were left un-researched. I didn’t ask a question to discover the reason for no garages. All of this makes me wonder how the simple practice of curiosity unlocks untold treasure troves of stories, histories, and historical insight that shapes contemporary understanding.

  2. Shawn Cramer says:

    As I read your post, I found myself thinking, “This man is studying the right thing.” You have taken some time to reveal the many passions you have and the creativity by which you’ve pursued an income stream to free yourself to pursue various forms of redemptive ministry. I’m hoping many will be able to do the same due to your focused work with this program.

  3. Joe Castillo says:

    Steve, thank you for your blog. I related a lot with it was able to travel in time to my neighborhood. By reading your blog, realize how much similarity neighborhoods in the States have. The times of transitions and the many social changes that it takes on. We are a young nation with growing communities full of constant changes, and those natives that remain can appreciate climate change.

  4. Nancy Blackman says:

    I had to look up that word, “polyvalent.” Nice! How appropriate for what you are seeing and living with daily.

    Your post immediately transported me back to a time when my husband and I lived in a section of LA called Koreatown. When we first drove through the neighborhood (during the day) our hearts were warmed. We saw an old guy walking his dog and children playing and no dirty mattresses on the sidewalk (yes, that was some of the neighborhoods we were looking at). So we moved.

    Within the first week, there was a shooting right outside our window which my husband witnessed, and for many weeks and months talked about the screams of the woman who had lost a loved one to a gang shooting.

    We eventually referred to the nightly helicopters as airconditioning in an attempt to bring humor to our situation. After all, we lived on a corner where 40 gangs crossed, the most powerful being MS13.

    What God impressed upon both of us, which is what I read in your post (and thank you for your hearts!) is that we were meant to pray. We began prayer walking the neighborhood and eventually a pop up police station opened up and then became a permament fixture. After a few years (yes, we stayed that long) we heard people in the neighborhood saying, “wow, things are getting better.”

    Have either you or Pam looked at Inner Change as an option for being in like-minded, prayerful community? (https://www.novo.org/innerchange).

    Blessings to you and Pam,

  5. Greg Reich says:

    So I learned a new word today: polyvalent! As you described your neighborhood and your experience I remember taking my son and son-in-love through the area I was raised in. I was surprised to see the dilapidated houses and cracked pavement. The ranch grew up on is now small town houses crammed together like sardines in a can. The grade school named after my grandfather was closed down. It was hard to explain to my family that this was once a nice area filled with families who took pride in their homes and community. It has been several years since we sold the ranch but despite the sad changes the place surprisingly holds a ton of great memories. I wonder how Pink ‘s approach to visual ethnography could have captured the changes?

  6. John McLarty says:

    I think one of the takeaways for me is the power of imagery and the way visual ethnography helps to chronicle the people, places, and events of our lives. When I see past pictures of my community, I almost always stop and try to imagine life at that time. Some members of my church were alive in those days and still remember. The pictures are often starting points to rich conversations and greater understanding of life.

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