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October 2, 1995

Our little community may have made some new friends over the past weekend when a passel of Tulsa photographers paid us a visit. Perry was the city chosen for this year's major project by an organization known as Tulsa Photography Collective, and about 20 of their members spent Friday and Saturday here attempting to capture the many facets of our town in candid shots.

They returned to their homes with dozens of rolls of 35 mm film to be processed. Each of the photographers will have a 16" x 20" matte to mount the pictures that he or she chooses for display, and sometime next spring, perhaps in March or April, the results will be brought here for the public to see. Later they will be hung in a gallery at the Tulsa Learning Center for an extended period.

The Collective is making arrangements with the Cherokee Strip Museum to display the photos over about a four week period. There will be no charge for admission. They will take orders for copies if requested, but making sales is not the main purpose of this project. The Collective is a non-profit group. They have no paid staff.

The Collective is composed of professionals, amateurs and students who love the art of photography. "Professionals," of course, is defined as people who make their living with a camera, but that is not meant to suggest that the "amateurs" or "students" are inept. Most of them have been shooting pictures with state of the art equipment for years as a hobby or avocation, and many of them have exhibited their work at major shows. They are serious craftsmen. The Collective is not a club. It is more like a study group of photographers, artisans who take their craft seriously and constantly strive to improve.

Each was given specific area to capture on film during the day Friday. Some were assigned to various parts of the downtown business district, the courthouse building, the Hopes and Dreams statue, the Farmers Exchange complex, Ditch Witch facilities, city schools, and so forth. Friday's day-long stiff breezes did not deter them at all, although the gentleman who made some shots from the top of the co-op's grain storage tower found the experience very exhilarating. That night, they dined on homemade chili cooked by one of their own at CCC Park and many of them camped out there, while others elected to stay at a motel in town. On Saturday, they were turned loose to shoot anything they wished.

They were excited about everything they saw here, and especially the people they met. They could not say enough good things about our Chamber of Commerce and Cheryle Leach, the executive director, for the assistance and cooperation they received in setting up this event. The Tulsans encountered equally hospitable treatment everywhere they went, and they liked what they found. Perryans who had a chance to spend some time with them learned that the visitors were warm, down to earth and genuinely interested in our town.

Several of the group asked, "Why do Perry people have such a great spirit?" We tried to explain that this is indeed a wonderfully unique community with exceptionally neat people, but there truly is a kindred feeling among the populace that you cannot find anywhere else. The folks who settled this area back in 1893 left us with a bequest, a bond that comes from shared experiences, and it's been infectious for those who have joined us here. First-time visitors, like the Tulsa Photography Collective, notice it right away. They enjoyed their brief stay among us and they hope to return, on their own, at some point in the future.

We'll welcome them back as newfound friends.