Follow-Up: Photographer Connects With Macomb Kids, Offers Prints of Viral 1973 Photo

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"By popular demand" fits this time.

Actually, by really popular demand would be factual in the case of former Detroit photographer Joseph Crachiola's nationally appreciated shot of five Mt. Clemens youngsters posing with natural comfort 40 years ago this month.

"I have received numerous requests for prints. . . . Thanks to everyone for such a positive response," he posted Friday on his photography studio's Facebook page, where the uplifting image shot for The Macomb Daily had been viewed 770,000 times in five days. He posted it Sunday, a half-day after jurors acquitted George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin. "It represents themes of race relations and tolerance, issues that are important to me," he told Deadline Detroit last Monday. "So it put it online."

In his July 14 post with the photo, Crachiola observed:

I have always wondered what happened to these children. . . . In light of the current state of affairs in this country I can't help but wonder if we couldn't all learn something from them.


Joe Crachiola, 63, wonders "if we couldn't all learn something" from his young Mt. Clemens photo subjects.

That sentiment is contagious. In response to admirers' purchase requests. Crachiola is selling signed open edition prints in three sizes for $75 to $200, plus shipping, via his website. Prices for numbered limited-edition prices on higher-quality paper are available on request (crachiola@mac.com).

Reporters' Calls Came

The public interest follows media coverage that began with Deadline Detroit's article. The Macomb Daily, where he worked from 1972-84, posted a report the next day that named the five youngsters -- identified via a caption retrieved from microfilm.

Next came attention from HuffPost Detroit and Code Switch, NPR's race relations blog, Code Switch. The Detroit writer, Kate Abbey-Lambertz, linked to Deadline Detroit's original, and Karen Grigsby Bates of NPR emailed Crachiola after seeing this site's piece. BuzzFeed posted a short item Thursday. NBC's Today Show followed Friday, as did MSN.com and NPR's Morning Edition with a four-minute interview by Renee Montagne.

The Macomb paper's front-page display of the photo, along with its identification of the young subjects, completed an arc stretching from 1973 to 2013.

"I received a call from the daughter of one of the children in the photograph," Crachiola emailed Deadline Detroit on Wednesday. "Her mom was pretty shocked to see the picture in this morning's paper."

Relatives Get in Touch

The caller was Bianca Shelly, a college student in Jackson, Miss., whose mother -- Rhonda Shelly is the 3-year-old too short to be clearly visible behind the photo's shopping cart. "She seemed genuinely moved by the spirit of the picture," Crachiola says of the daughter..

Rhonda M. Shelly still lives in Mt. Clemens, as does her  46-year-old brother Robert T. Shelly (far right in the photo). Their 45-year-old sister, Lisa Dianne Roby (third from left), lives in Clinton Township.

Crachiola also heard from another daughter of Rhonda Shelly. Mariah Monae of Mt. Clemens, who commented  Wednesday on his Facebook page. So did Robert Shelly's wife, Darnesha, who joked: "It was great seeing a picture of my husband with hair!"

By Thursday night, the photographer had located 47-year-old Kathy McCool and her 49-year-old brother Chris, the other 1973 playmates pictured. "I found the McCool children!" begins an email with the subject line "Eureka!" Their brother had gotten wind of the viral photo and got in touch to say they live in Texas. A reunion call was pending.

All in it's it's been quite a week for the 63-year-old professional photographer and musician (guitar and sax), who moved from Detroit to New Orleans in 2009. On Monday, he had just over 400 Facebook fans of his business page. Today the number is 2,570.

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