Kiera Butler put together an impressive LaPorte, Indiana review for New York Press this week. Here's a selection from her piece:
Officially, the book has no chapters; it’s just one portrait after another. But if you look closely, you’ll notice that the book’s greatest strength is its layout. The arrangement of the photos not only makes sense — it’s hilarious. Bitner sorted the photos into loose categories. The celebrity look-alike section includes a Scarlett Johansson, a DeNiro and a Drew Barrymore. Bitner’s book is more than just a collection of photos—it’s a remarkable portrait of a bygone era in one Midwestern town.
Check out the full New York Press review here.
More exciting news from radio land! Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister's Long Haul Productions crafted an excellent story about LaPorte, Indiana for National Public Radio (the story ran eariler on Chicago Public Radio). Collison and Meister talk to some of the people from the book, including Kathy and Hugh Tonagel, Patty Sallwasser, and more. Be sure to check out the full mp3 here and listen to some hilarious and touching stories!
The coverage of the LaPorte, Indiana book release party at B & J's American Café continues! Martha Bayne wrote a wonderful piece about the book and the party in this week's Chicago Reader. Here's an excerpt where Bayne talks about the book and former LaPortean Pat Orzech remembers sitting for a portrait at Muralcraft Studios:
The La Porte volume is warmer in tone and more conceptually consistent than the Found books, whose sense of slice-of-life discovery is served with a sometimes unsettling dose of voyeuristic glee. Essentially text free, save for Bitner's introduction and a foreword by Alex Kotlowitz, LaPorte, Indiana is a rich anthology of midcentury hairdos and eyewear, page after page of citizens young and old, dressed for posterity and doing their darnedest to relax. Pease had operated Muralcraft with his wife, Gladys, who hand-colored prints, ran the office, greeted clients, and helped them with their hair and makeup. Pat Orzech remembers being really nervous before her graduation photo, but "Gladys and Frank put you at ease," she says. And though the photos themselves are undistinguished - all have the same natural background, the same unsurprising poses - collectively they convey a lost moment in time.
Read the full article here.
Whitney Matheson has a interesting column over at USAToday.com called Pop Candy, where she goes about "unwrapping pop culture's hip and hidden treasures." After visiting BookExpo, the massive annual book fair in Washington, DC, she listed some of her favorite books ... including LaPorte, Indiana! Here's what she had to say:
Found Magazine's Jason Bitner hit the jackpot when he stumbled upon 18,000 old photos of La Porte citizens. This is the fascinating result - and it even includes John Mellencamp's seal of approval!
See her list here.
New words about LaPorte, Indiana, this time from the ALA's magazine, Booklist! Donna Seaman said some great things about us--it's even the official review on amazon.com now! Check it out:
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.
We're psyched. Kent Owen reviewed LaPorte, Indiana in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend. Here's a selection:
...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.
Stacey Dugan reviewed LaPorte, Indiana over at UR Chicago magazine! Here is Dugan covering some of the book's more curatorial aspects:
Some of his selections would be well-described as outtakes - a baby crying, a little girl itching her eye or a teenage girl looking scared stiff - but those imperfections make the subjects overwhelmingly human, even if they aren't the portraits that would make their way to the family mantel. Bitner's juxtapositions, too, are playful but astute.
More reviews from the UK! The British fine arts magazine Modern Painters offers its thoughts on LaPorte, Indiana in their new issue:
Roland Barthes famously noted that in the 1953 film Julius Caesar, coiffure guaranteed historical authenticity: The cod-classical fringe flagged the male actors' Roman-ness. In Jason Bitner's selection of found studio portraits from the 1950s and 1960s, the equivalent ensign is a little tuft of hair that sticks straight up from a brutal haircut.
Hannah Lack, from the global culture magazine Dazed and Confused, wrote a glowing review of LaPorte, Indiana - here's a selection:
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.