Whitewater captured photographer’s eye — and his heart
Advertise on WalworthCountyToday.com
To promote your business, contact our account executives HERE.
Soldiers leaving Whitewater to serve in World War II. The photograph was taken around 1945. Fran Achen photo.
WHITEWATER — Thanks to Fran Achen, Whitewater has its own family photo album.
Achen opened a photography studio here in 1946, handling the usual wedding and family portraits, but his varied assignments as a local photographer allowed him to chronicle life during the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.
Although he died in 2004, the results are a rich reward of details of a black-and-white past. Sun-dappled neighborhoods — some revealing homes and businesses long since gone — are flanked by majestic shade trees. Boys’ baseball teams, in their pre-Little League “uniforms” of jeans, T-shirts and unmarked caps, sit beside a cluster of bats. The city high school marching band, sporting plastic raincoats, is gamely poised to play.
A resident stands outside the corner grocery store, needing both hands to hoist the fish he caught, while behind him, the store’s butcher, wearing a white apron, paper cap and a broad grin, leans out the door to catch the sight.
“The subjects of his photography were typical of many small-town photographers of that time — portraits, weddings, family gatherings, commercial products, photos for the newspaper which might include the local high school games or an accident, whatever it took to make a living,” wrote Chap Achen, Fran’s son, in a recent e-mail from his Minnesota home, referring to his father’s work.
“Relaxation for my mom and dad in those days was a drive in the country, and dad had his camera with him to capture what pleased him,” he said. “The landscape of southern Wisconsin was a favorite and dad would love to take pictures of farmers in their field, or the old barns that dotted the landscape.
“When I was growing up, I enjoyed his landscapes the most, but today I enjoy his photographs of the daily life in a small town. Pictures of parades and the people in them, the local baseball league or soldiers off to war.”
A show that includes some of Achen’s photos runs until Sept. 12 at the Cultural Arts Center in Whitewater.
Read the full story in the Aug. 15, 2010 e-edition of Walworth County Sunday, PAGE 12A.