Recently, I met with Richard Klatte Prestor, author of the photography books Milwaukee Wisconsin and Langlade County (in the Images of America). He talked at length about his extensive collections of historical photographs that he uses to document our American past. Richard also spoke about current projects, which include a photography book on World War II and a fascinating novel-in-the-works about backstage security at 1970s concerts, from Bruce Springsteen to Led Zeppelin. He is looking for a talented fiction writer to take on this latter project (so if anyone has any leads, get in touch with me!). We’re here now, though, to share Richard’s gratitudes! Without further ado:
Something that can fit in a box? I would have to say my camera. I started taking pictures when I was nine years old. People can write big things about American history, but I like seeing it. I like seeing people at play, at work, in their coffins. I love old photos that people tend to throw away. For instance, I have an extensive collection of circus photos, original photos of writers (my favorite is a young Mark Twain before his well-known white hair and mustache) and over 500 original photos from World War II, including early pictures of Hitler and Julius Streicher. Apparently, when Hitler was let of prison in 1924, Streicher and a photographer met him at the gate. I got these photos of Hitler from my father, a captain, who fought in Germany and found a room with several shelves of brass-bound binders of photos. My dad grabbed a few dozen of these, which included a 1925 photo of Hitler on a couch with Streicher and pictures of Jewish men–just headshots–that Streicher used as propoganda to show how “disgusting” Jewish men were.
I’m thankful for my mother. She suffered a lot–she lost lots of her identity when she got married in 1946 (on 4/6/46–it’s easy to remember her birthday!). I grew up in the ’40s and ’50s, and dad was not always around. It got to the point where one day she just said, “Whatever happened to me?” Despite this, she was always there for me.
A big idea or value? This one’s hard. I’ll say honesty. I was born on Abe Lincoln’s birthday (2/12/47) and back then we knew him as “Honest Abe.” My honesty, however, is something I’ve had to learn how to control: I tend to be up front sometimes and say what I think right away. Not everyone likes that. But I’d rather someone give me a suggestion about something I’ve said so I can fix it. I will.