LaPorte, Indiana

cheerleader portrait by Frank Pease, Muralcraft Studios; LaPorte, Indiana
We’re back today with some information on what promises to be a unique and uniquely-moving documentary project: LaPorte, Indiana. Directed by Joe Beshenkovsky (who won an Oscar for his work on the This American Life television series) and produced by Jason Bitner (the co-creator of Found Magazine), this film’s genesis emerged from boxes of photographs found in the back of a local diner–and it goes forth to use the photographer-subject interchange to narrate a story of a generation coming to terms with its home town. With these photographs as prologue, we hear from those who stayed, and those who left LaPorte, and we’re brought into a richer, and much more complicated evocation of  place. 

Here’s the site’s introduction, followed by the trailer and a sort clip from the DVD extra features. Please visit the La Porte, Indiana site for more information on film screenings and how to order a copy of the documentary.
Tucked away in the back room of a B&J’s American Cafe lies a secret history waiting to be discovered: 18,000 dog-eared studio portraits from the 1950s and 60s. From baby pictures to graduation shots to young soldiers heading off to war and beyond, each of these photos hints at a personal story waiting to be told.
From 1947 through 1970, the diner’s second floor housed Muralcraft Studios. It was here where Frank and Gladys Pease documented many important milestones—a sailor in uniform, a graduate in cap and gown, a couple newly-engaged—while others made modest attempts at posterity.  Muralcraft was the go-to studio for special event photography but little did they know they would also become the “accidental historians” of LaPorte, Indiana with the extensive archive they left-behind.
Now, the subjects of these portraits share their own life stories: deeply personal tales of love and family, divorce and loss, and the search for identity and one’s place in the world. We also encounter the next generation of LaPorteans, grappling with the decision to stay and begin their adult life in their hometown, or search for opportunities elsewhere, a truly universal dilemma experienced across America and beyond.

LaPorte, Indiana Trailer from Joe Beshenkovsky & Jason Bitner on Vimeo.

Ups and Downs from Joe Beshenkovsky & Jason Bitner on Vimeo.