These are real people. The grace and dignity one sees in their faces should be a source of hope for us all.”
FOUND Magazine editor Jason Bitner has made it a habit of picking up after us, walking down the back alleys of our lives, and accumulating all that we’ve thrown away or mislaid. One afternoon not long ago, after lunch at a small Midwestern diner, he stumbled onto a forgotten archive. In the back of the restaurant were box upon box of studio portraits of the townspeople of LaPorte, Indiana—over 18,000 in total.
Taken over three decades by photographer Frank Pease, the photos marked many important milestones—a sailor in uniform, a graduate in cap and gown, a couple newly engaged—while others simply made modest attempts at posterity. Each in its unique way reveals both a public and private face, a story untold, a secret to reveal. They are brief moments and ones in which people have purposefully posed for the camera. Smiling. Caring. Loving. Pensive. Serious. These are pictures of all of us in a way, reflections in a mirror of the everyday moments and events that define all of our lives. LaPorte, Indiana is a major cultural excavation and an opening into these lives, into this town, and into the heart of our nation.
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Selected Press for LAPORTE, INDIANA, The Book
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
“Fortunately, magazine editor Jason Bitner happened upon the stored prints of a LaPorte studio photographer named Fred Pease and, delighted by the hoard he had discovered, assembled this assortment. Though the book yields motifs — couples, siblings, pearl necklaces, buzz haircuts, bouffant hairdos, horn-rimmed glasses — the faces appear anonymously, each a souvenir from the 1950s or ’60s. Nothing is played for laughs, no postmodern sarcasm at the expense of clueless Hoosiers. The expressions are easygoing and ingenuous, if shaded toward the tentative and diffident. If there was an American look 40 or 50 years ago — at least one recognizable throughout Middle America — these faces may be it. Nothing edgy, smirking or brash. But much that is earnest, benign and hopeful. Nothing edgy, smirking or brash. But much that is earnest, benign, and hopeful. ”
NEW YORK PRESS
“Bitner’s book is more than just a collection of photos—it’s a remarkable portrait of a bygone era in one Midwestern town.”
“LaPorte, Indiana also presents a rare and striking collection of portraits meant to preserve memories and serve as tokens of affection. Bitner, cocreator of Found Magazine, an inspired showcase of lost-and-found items, was astonished to find a cache of 18,000 professional black-and-white photographs in the backroom of an Indiana diner. As Kotlowitz notes in his introductory essay, these carefully posed portraits of the townspeople of LaPorte taken during the 1950s and 1960s capture the idealized self-images of middle-class midwesterners. Bitner describes the photographer, Frank Pease, as an “accidental historian.” One might also say that Pease created what art critic Michael Kimmelman calls “accidental masterpieces.” Certainly, the 200 lustrous portraits of people at every stage of life possess a mesmerizing power, running the gamut from sweet to hilarious, poignant to beautiful.”
CHICAGO SUN TIMES
“Each photo isn’t particularly fascinating by itself — the people, poses, and clothing are thoroughly ordinary. But set next to each other, in page after page, the pictures seem to gain a new layer of humanity: each person is trying to present his or her best face to the world, and those efforts can be endearing (one elderly man adjusting another’s tie) or surprisingly revealing for portrait photography (one woman is clearly so uncomfortable in front of the camera that her smile might as well be a scowl). And the images practically demand that you ask where these people came from, of what became of them — however revealing the images might be, they’re still just slivers of lives, which makes the book simultaneously frustrating and fascinating.”
DAZED AND CONFUSED Magazine
“The photographs capture post-WWII middle America when suburbia was ballooning, before Vietnam and the 60s hit the nation’s consciousness … we can only guess at the mysterious stories that hide behind these milk-fed faces.”
STOP SMILING MAGAZINE
“These moments are more than tender, they represent a psychological place where vulnerability can dance carelessly, where adoration is encouraged and the perfect smile is effortless. LaPorte, Indiana is a true collection of hope, revealing through these Midwestern Americans who we are and who we might be.”
“Emblematic of the times, the earlier photos’ subjects sport beehive hairdos, crewcuts, cat-eye glasses, and a preponderance of pearls. later, skirts creep up and the sideburns creep down, the country slouching toward the ’60s. The images are modest, almost workmanlike. But they are tinged with a gentle self-consciousness, even hopefulness, and bespeak the quietude and dignity of their Midwest subjects.”
“While Found catches people at their most vulnerable, LaPorte does the opposite, showing the subjects at their Sunday best: a uniformed sailor, a dignified elderly couple, girls in pigtails and boys in flattops, men with pocket handkerchiefs, and women with corsages. Individually, the LaPorte photos are mere examples of competent portraiture, but taken together, they recreate a yearbook from the Midwest that previously existed only in our nostalgic imaginations.”