A timeless photo gets a surreal update

All photos are timeless and beautiful. At least that’s the way I see them. And sometimes, with the right person pulling the creative levers, they can be “updated” into the present.

This cool image was shot almost two years ago by one of our incredible photojournalists, Tom Fox, in the studio at the old Dallas Morning News building on Young Street before we moved to the long-shuttered, grandly renovated central library on Commerce Street in late 2017. But the overarching background photo is a gratifying, true throwback in that the image of my birth parents Betty and Bob dates to the early 1940s in Huntington, West Virginia. I feel sure it was taken by Bob’s widowed mother Kathryn, with whom Betty and Bob lived after they married in 1939 until Kathryn died much too young at age 52 in 1945. When the photo was taken in front of their home across from the floodwall on 32nd Street in East Huntington, Bob and Betty weren’t parents yet – my oldest brother Crys came along in 1944, followed by brother Robin in 1947, sister Terry in 1954 and me in 1961.

Dallas Morning News multiplatform editor Frank Christlieb sits before a projection of an early 1940s photo of his birth parents, Betty and Bob Workman, both of whom he never met. The photo was taken in the newspaper’s photo studio on May 18, 2017. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

When our editor and I were tweaking the narrative piece I wrote about Bob to trim and get it in shape for Father’s Day 2017 publication, it was also a time for gathering old photos, newspaper clippings and documents to add to the online and print presentations of the story. We recorded a video of me reflecting on what I’ve learned about Bob, accenting it with timeless old photos and snippets of the priceless recordings we have of Betty singing with a dance band over 60 years ago, Bob’s narration and his own attempt at singing. But we also did a photo shoot – Tom Fox’s great idea – in which he posed me with a couple of treasured birth family photos projected as a backdrop. This one was left on the cutting-room floor, as the one we chose to publish has me standing in front of a photo from about 1950 of Bob next to his cool set of wheels, a blue 1949 Nash Ambassador.

So I thought I’d share this, along with the link to the story about Bob for anyone who might not have seen it. (http://interactives.dallasnews.com/2017/fathers-day/) It’s pretty surreal to have the parents I never met faux-standing behind me in a moment from so long ago. That perfect image and many others I’ve been blessed to be given by my siblings will always be embedded in my conscience, just like those of the parents who raised me, Clark and Olga, from the happier times they shared before things went so sadly wrong.

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