Jayne Bartlett Kerr was born in Marshall, Illinois, in 1879 and lived there for most of her life. Little could she have known that her image and her life would be resurrected in the 21st century in a video for the popular folk-pop duo, The Civil Wars.
Hersey High school history teacher Bruce David Janu discovered Kerr's old, dusty photo album in an antique store many years ago.
"I just love old pictures," he said. He quietly tucked the album away for many years and just recently came across it again when going through some boxes in his basement. A filmmaker with a couple of acclaimed documentaries, Janu always had wanted to do something with that photo album. But he was never sure what he wanted to do.
Then, the Civil Wars introduced a contest to produce a video for their song "20 Years" and Janu immediately thought of the beautiful woman who graced the pages of that photo album he had bought many years ago.
As part of a competition sponsored by Genero.tv, Janu decided to make Jayne Bartlett Kerr the star of the music video. He digitized and restored many of the pictures and, through the magic of modern computer editing, was able to make the images come to life like never before. The video features images of a young Jayne Bartlett Kerr, who was a mere 20 years old when she started putting the album together. Included are photographs of those who were close to her, most importantly her son Louis Bartlett Kerr and her best friend, Clara Schwanecke.
"The photographs are beautiful," says Janu. "And what's great about the pictures is that they show people doing what people do today." Janu points to a picture of Jayne and Clara sitting at a small table, looking refined while holding glasses and cards. The next picture is of them on the floor with their heads sticking out of newspapers.
"Not too different than what people would post today on Facebook," he concludes.
In order to complete the video, Janu enlisted the help of colleague Patty Merris, an English teacher at Hersey, who has an acting role in the short video. In addition, Janu had to overcome another hurdle: high definition.
"My professional equipment is a little dated," he explains. Since the video needed to be in high definition, Janu turned to his smart phone. After purchasing some smart phone lenses and making tripods, he was able to turn his phone into a fully-functional high definition camera.
"It was a challenge," he admits. "But I am pleased with the results."
Now that the video is finished, Janu is not concerned with winning the contest. "I just like the fact that Jayne lives on in another medium," he states. He has done some research on Kerr's life, but is unsure whether or not there are any remaining relatives.
As for the photo album, it is still in his basement. He has thought about restoring all of the photographs. Perhaps there are more stories that can be made from the fading images.