Q: How often would you go to the Register
when you were on staff?
A: I went three times and each time I
visited with John. And I married him the
fifth time we were ever together.
Q: What were the occasions for you going
A: I had to go over there for other
business. Either for the Iowan or to see
Dave Archie or see a friend, or covering
something for the Iowan.
Q: Dave Archie was the publisher?
A: Of the Iowan, yes. He lived most of
the time either in Shenandoah or Charles
City. I had a number of Des Moines
assignments and probably on two of those
occasions, it might have been an Iowan
assignment over there, going through Des
Q: When you were taking these photos to
build circulation here in Cedar Rapids, give
us an example. What would we see?
A: Well, I photographed a lot of black
people doing things. One of the features -
this wasn't the once a week thing, but one
memorable feature was that I decided that
maybe there was a black family that would be
outstanding and the white population of Cedar
Rapids should know that a black family could
be existing, raising their kids, doing their
work, not committing crimes. So the
outstanding black family prior to Percy and
his kids was Cecil Reed. He was a floor
sander. But he gave a lot of talks on what
it was like to be black and what it was like
to walk through this solid wall of hate on
either side, walls of hate. So I did three
pages in picture magazine on how the Cecil
Reed family lived. The Republicans decided
to run Cecil for the state legislature and he
won! This catapulted him into an entirely
different way of life. He ultimately was
appointed by Harold Hughes to be on the
Commerce Commission. I think he spent about
20 years there and had a very good career.
You know, he was the first black legislator
elected and it all came about due to the
pictures for the Register.
Q: Where before he probably . .
A: He'd still be sanding floors, probably
in his eighties.
Q: Wow! Isn't that something?
A: Yes. I mean, it was very nice to be
able to do something and see the effect. And
I covered week after week documenting how
race relations were progressing in Cedar
Rapids. Now, another area in which there was
a lot of discrimination, there were no women
realtors. They could not sell real estate.
Q: In Cedar Rapids?
A: In Cedar Rapids. I presume this
condition might have existed in other cities
nationwide, but see, I was in Cedar Rapids.
You have to work within the community in
which you find yourself. It's very easy to
go off and tell somebody else how to live and
ignore what is in your own community. There
was a woman named Jackson who wanted to be a
realtor and they wouldn't let her. Her dad,
who was a Bohemian on the south side of Cedar
Rapids, as I recall, was just furious! So
there were wonderful quotes regarding what
they were doing to his little girl, who was
probably in her thirties. And she became the
first woman realtor in Cedar Rapids. I
photographed all this for the Register. Then
there were other people who did interesting
things, which I covered. --
Q: What did you enjoy most about your
career as a researcher? Writer?
A: I liked taking the images with my
Q: Could you expand on that? What is it
that you like about that?
A: I think it's fun to try to distill the
exact moment that communicates. And that
moment has an element of truth to it, both
visually and in terms of what it's saying.
Visually, and by that I mean the arrangement
of light and dark and the basic composition.
I wanted to have it while it was moving. But
the Register would run such weekly pictures
as horses in a field in Volga, Iowa, racing
along. They did a lot of nature. I suppose
that's because John liked nature. And there
were interesting people who came to town. I
covered that. I covered the lifestyle of
Ruth and Russ Nash for the Picture Magazine.
I usually had something in picture magazine
ever single Sunday.
Q: This is an abstract question, but do
you think there is anything typically Iowan?
When you go out and look at something, when
you want to take a photograph, are you
looking at something, at a subject matter
that represents what you see as the Iowa
A: I think Iowa becomes a metaphor for the
entire rest of the nation because everything
is here that is elsewhere, but it's a little
smaller. There was a wonderful book called
Prairie Earth, written by William Least Heat
Moon on Kansas. Have you read it?
Q: I've read Blue Highways, but I haven't
read that one.
A: He took a Cass County Kansas and
covered it in microscopic detail. The book
was about four inches thick. Everybody in
the nation passed through, sooner or later,
that county, on their way West. I mean, it
mirrors the nation. In a way, Iowa mirrors
value for the nation, of the people. I mean,
basically, Iowans are a good people. And I
don't know that they necessarily meant to be
discriminatory in Cedar Rapids or in any of
the other cities, they just didn't know any
better. Or they didn't walk in another
Q: What do you think opened their eyes?
How do you think Iowans became less
A: Because of the advocacy in the courts
nationwide. I mean, there has not been many
progress for black Americans without court
action. Along with court action, I think you
have to soften up by showing examples of
human beings that you wouldn't mind having as
your neighbor. --
Q: Any advice that you would give a
budding reporter or photographer or
A: Yes, I'd say photograph what's in your
heart and soul to say, the best you can. I
suppose today if I were a young person, I
would want to be doing video documentaries,
showing injustice and getting social change
under way. Now, I don't want to imply that
that has been my entire thrust, because my
entire thrust has also been in a certain
aesthetic mood to explore and to grow through
exploration. I certainly have large bodies
of my work that had nothing to do with social
action and a social criteria. But I think
when you are in a position and you have an
opportunity to take a stand on something and
make a social change, it behooves you to do
it. Now, I did not seek out fighting the
Viet Nam war with my camera. I guess in a
way, I've been reactive rather than
pro-active. I didn't seek causes. I think
there is a real difference there, but when
there is something I stumble into and it
needs to be addressed, I will try to address
Q: It wouldn't be addressed unless you
actually went out and took the photos. Those
are my questions, Joan, although there is one
thing I'd like to go over. We forgot to hold
up the photo of the faculty wives. And
again, describe what we have here. This was
kind of taken when you captured the moment,
when one woman was looking and then another
A: They were involved with this Kuni Oshi
nude. And the women's role in that era was
to go to luncheons and to go to lectures and
to have the gloves on and the hat and not be
out working as women are today.
Q: The one on the furthest left, was the
one who did not really approve -
A: Oh, yes! She loved how she was looking
disapprovingly because she did not like nude
paintings. Of course, ever since the
Renaissance, people have been taking their
clothes off to pose. But that didn't impact
her at all.
Q: And this particular photo sat idle for
several years, is that correct?
A: Right, until Nancy wanted to do her
story on culture in Cedar Rapids for the
Junior League magazine, which was kind of
promoting the arts. I used it in my Women
book. And that kind of launched it a bit,
too. I used it on the cover. I did a
collection of pictures on women, which
Q: Anything else you want to add to what
we've already talked about? Something we
A: I think that you've done it. Thank you
for coming to see me.
Q: Thank you, Joan.
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