In 1939, in the small Iowa town of Ridgeway, a young man just about to graduate from high school, spend his entire savings of $12.50 on a 35mm Argus AF camera. Everett Kuntz made a camera case from a worn-out boot, a clasp from his mother’s purse, and scraps from a tin can.
For the next several years, he was seen clicking the shutter of his trusty Argus all around the quiet town. People became relaxed around the camera. They even even began to count on him saying, “Where is Everett? We need a picture.”
Everett never did have the money to print his photographs. His negatives – more than two thousand of them – stayed in a box while he married, worked as an electrical engineer in the Twin Cities, and raised a family.
Sixty years later, when he became ill with cancer, he opened his box of negatives and printed the images from his youth. He died in 2003, bringing his childhood town back to life just as he was leaving it.
Sunday Afternoons on the Porch is the culmination of a promise made by Everett’s son, Jim Heynen, to put these pictures together in a book.
A sense of peace radiates from these images. Ridgeway’s citizens are hardworking and modest. They appear trusting and luminous in their graceful harmony and their unguarded affection for each other.
Jim Heynen visited the town in 2006 as he was writing the text to accompany these photographs. He crafted vignettes, blending fact and fiction to give context and voice to Ridgeway’s citizens.
Jim Heynen has been published widely as a writer of poems, short fiction, and nonfiction. His stories about “the boys” have been featured often on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” His most recent collection of these stories, The Boys’ House, was honored by being named Editors’ Choice for Best Books of 2001 by the Bloomsbury Review, Newsday, and Booklist.