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.