Babies in America usually have their choice of a million dangling toys of all shapes and sizes. They can range everywhere from platinum shiny to electric colors invented in the '80s. These toys can do anything from playing melodies to imitating animal noises to producing the most irritating flatulent squeaks. Yet despite the hundreds of dollars spent on these toys, these aren't the things babies prefer to see. Most scientists agree that what newborn babies most prefer seeing is the human face. Jason Bitner has reminded people of that preference with his release of Laporte, Indiana.
LaPorte, Indiana is a book composed of portraits (and occasional silhouettes) of the residents of the eponymous city from the 1940s to the 1960s. Wisely, Bitner does not attempt to explain the portraits through precious captions, but allows them to express and suggest their personal stories simply by being. Flipping through the pages occasionally leads to giggles (there is a family that this reviewer and her siblings have unkindly nicknamed the world's ugliest) and sometimes to dramatic storytelling (the wide, beautifully sad eyes of a high school graduate urge on wild speculation about the state of her future and home life). Yet most interesting as all is the need one feels to relate these images to those surrounding him. Celebrities, old lovers, and despised teachers begin to appear superimposed on the unfeeling black and white faces of the residents of Laporte. Everything begins to close and turn and consider on itself, until the reality of the book becomes less of a chronicle of the town and more of a tome of the viewer's own personal reactions.
This book is for the voyeurs of the world. The people who do not look within themselves for themselves, but for those who best know themselves by their reactions and interpretations of the outside world. It is not necessary to be a voyeur to appreciate this book, of course, but approach it with the right attitude and LaPorte, Indiana might just remind you of that tendency within yourself.
Reviewed by Megan Giddings