By John Burton
RED BANK – From the iconic to the obscure, from the historic to the everyday, the images of a past fondly remembered or never known, the late Dan Dorn’s photos and those of his father before him, have detailed life in the Two River area for posterity.
Some of those images will be on display through June 22 at FrameWorks, 160 Monmouth St.
FrameWorks’ owner, Stephen McMillion has collected about 80 of the more than 10,000 images from the Dorn’s archives, said George Severini, who with his wife, Kathy Dorn Severini, are the keepers of the archives of Dorn’s Classic Images.
The exhibit, called “Pursuing the Past,” spotlights photos mostly from the 1950s and ‘60s, with a few dating back to the ‘40s. “The theme, if there is one, is kind of human interest,” Severini said.
The photos capture some of what Severini calls “the Life Magazine sort of oddball sort of thing,” highlighting some of the interesting offbeat, “kitschy” style of the mid-20th century.
Photos include one detailing a group of protestors wearing sandwich board signs, expressing their opposition to burlesque at what was at the time the Paramount Theater on Long Branch’s Broadway. Another, that Severini called “punks on the boardwalk,” shows an Easter parade on Asbury Park’s boardwalk during the ‘50s, with participants wearing their holiday finest. In the middle of the photo are the two young “punks” in slicked-back pompadours, black leather biker jackets and jeans, ala Marlon Brando in The Wild One. “They are emblematic of rebellion of that era,” Severini said.
Interest in the photos in the archives seems to be universal, appealing to all generations, Severini said.
“People, even young people, kind of sense that time was more magical than their own,” he said.
The images, black-and-white and sepia-toned with age, “documents life in the county,” including the trolleys in Long Branch, Broad Street in Red Bank lined with parked Packards and Hudsons, Count Basie visiting his hometown of Red Bank, children and parents enjoying a parade and the like.
The photos reflect an attitude, held by Dorn and his father before him, and continued by the Severinis, that it was “the best that there was in America, in American life, a happy place, a great place to live, to work, in this Two River area and the shore area in general,” Severini said.
Dan W. Dorn Sr., who died in 2005 at the age of 94, worked with his dad Dan D. Dorn, as a photographer, and with his father as documentary filmmakers and newsreel cameramen. In 1938 they opened a shop on Wallace Street, and shortly thereafter moved the business across the street to a former residence, 15 Wallace St., where the business, Dorn Photography, continued until the property was sold in 2009.
The Dorns were also pilots and would shoot aerial photos for commercial purposes and to continue their documentation of the area and the changes it was undergoing, according to Severini.
During the 1940s the Dorns bought about 2,500 antique glass photo negatives from a couple of closing businesses, containing images dating back to the late 1800s, with those images contained in Dorn’s Classic Images.