Publication date 3/6/2006
6.75 x 8.5 inches (17.1 x 21.6 cm), Paperback
192 pages, 200 b/w illustrations
Carton qty: 20;
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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 four decades, the photos marked 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 their unique way reveals both a public and private face, a story untold, a secret to reveal. They are admittedly 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.
"These are real people. The grace and dignity one sees in their faces should be a source of hope for us all." --John Mellencamp
Jason Bitner is the co-creator of Found magazine and lives in Chicago, Illinois.
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"The collection reads like an incredibly beautiful census, with expertly lit faces replacing biographical data."
"A delicious slice of American pie to be savored."
Bookmark, Modern Painters:
"Intriguing images in the back room of a diner in the town where they were produced. As editor of Found Magazine, (Bitner) has an abiding interest in the of American life."
Current Obsession: LaPorte, Indiana, Jane Magazine Online:
"Looking at these people's faces you see the inherent dignity of every person who has ever lived or ever will live on earth. (How's that for some heavy praise?) "
New York Press:
"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's book is more than just a collection of photos--it's a remarkable portrait of a bygone era in one Midwestern town."
"A crossbreeding of several genres; because of the beautifully displayed images, it easily functions as a coffee table photography book. It is also of interest to history buffs and found-art aficionados alike.
These extraordinary photos of mid-century Midwest seem to be extraordinary for their very ordinary-ness. These are people carrying out their lives in the midst of a rapidly changing world."
"There is something almost sacrosanct about the pictures in LaPorte. Looking at them can be an intimate experience. You want to know who they are, what their lives were like, and what happened to them. This sensation gives LaPorte it's power. . . . The photos caught these people at a very specific point in time, and for the viewer, they stay there forever."
"I can't recommend Laporte, Indiana highly enough for fans of photography, ephemera, or curiosities. Looking at these anonymous people is deeply moving."
LaPorte in Images, South Bend Tribune:
"LaPorte photographer Frank Pease adored people. Pictures were his present to the world, chronicling special days and memories for local residents."
— Sharon Dettmer
"Jason Bitner took one of his best finds, over 18,000 photography studio portraits abandoned from the 1950s and compiled them into this book."
Wall Street Journal:
"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."
Gals with Glasses, Indianapolis Monthly:
"A new book - entitled, simply, LaPorte, Indiana - gathers potraits of the towns citizenry, culled from about 18,000 old photos that had been stored for decades in a diner in the small northern Indiana city."
"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."
Photographic Resource Center Magazine:
"Bitner's comparisons tease out the subtle underlying differences of a seemingly homogenous middle-American community. . . . We quickly learn to look past the outlandish 1950s eyeglasses and worn studio props, noticing instead the details that point to the frustratingly incomplete story that each sitter conceals behind a mask of sameness. . . . LaPorte, Indiana purposely leaves us with unanswered questions about the true nature of life in the halcyon days of post-World War II America, and makes us want to travel to that diner in LaPorte so that we may conduct our own archival research."
"LaPorte, Indiana presents a rare and striking collection of portraits meant to preserve memories and serve as tokens of affection...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."
Step Inside Design:
"Inside, inventive image pairings invite readers into their story. Are these two women related? Or are their similar looks a mere coincidence? These unlabled photos may never reveal the truth, but the volumes design compellingly invites readers to guess at the answers."
— Michelle Taute
Hometown (rating 5 out of 5):
I am originally from LaPorte, IN and have been working on a biography of my father as well as the town he grew up in. I can't wait to see the book!
- Jeffrey from PHoenix, AZ (01/18/2006)