Seeing Things, Saying Things

Musings About Writing, Photography and Teaching

One of the Magnificent 92

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Indiana has a lot of stately courthouses that tower over the square of the county seat communities that they serve. Most were built in the late 19th and early 20th century.

I don’t know if this makes Indiana unique or any different than any other Midwest state.

Nearly three decades ago, the late Ira Wilmer Counts, Jr., a professor of photojournalism at Indiana University traveled the state and photographed the 92 courthouses in the Hoosier State.

I don’t know how long that took, but it probably wasn’t done in a week.

His work was placed on a display with the exhibit text written by his colleague, Jon Dilts, who was my adviser during my time in graduate school at IU.

Their work was eventually made into a book titled The Magnificent 92 Courthouses of Indiana and a poster. I had a framed copy of that poster that sat on the wall above my desk for many years.

Professor Counts didn’t have far to go to photograph the courthouse in Bloomington, the home of the IU main campus and the county seat of Monroe County.

I admired Professor Counts’ work for his ability to vary the angles and compositions of the courthouses.

I never had Professor Counts for a class during my time at IU. I only knew him casually, if that.

He had a distinguished career that landed him a place in the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.

An Arkansas native, Professor Counts is best known for his prize-winning photograph of a black student seeking to integrate a segregated high school in Little Rock in 1957.

When he died of cancer at age 70 in 2001, Professor Counts merited an obituary in the New York Times and other publications. His book about Indiana courthouses was mentioned in the Times obit.

Whenever I see a courthouse in Indiana I’m reminded of Professor Counts and his devotion to telling the story with images of the architecture of another era.

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