June 18, 1996
One more footnote remains to be added to the Tulsa Photography Collective's excellent "Day in the Life of Perry," the photo essay of this city undertaken by the group last year. Photos made by the Tulsans during that assignment were displayed in April at the Cherokee Strip Museum here, then were moved to the pictures gallery at the University Center at Tulsa where they remained through June 2. They now are part of the Collective's permanent collection. In addition to the photos displayed here in April, a few more prints have been added.
The Collective's most recent newsletter, Untitled Images, is devoted to the assignment here and it contains a poignant note of special local interest by Janice McCormick. She is a member of both the Tulsa Photography Collective and the Tulsa Artists' Coalition, and she also writes a column for Urban Tulsa. In the newsletter she describes the group's interest in history, and concludes with this:
"The second event (about the Perry assignment) that made this point about creating an historical record through photography occurred to me personally. On one of my wanderings through the residential part of Perry, I encountered an elderly gentleman, Gus Malget. His careworn face, reserved demeanor, denim overalls and dapper hat caught my eye. After receiving his permission, I took two photos. One was a full length view of him, and another from the torso up. The latter one became one of three works I put in the On Assignment: Perry exhibit.
"Upon visiting the show's reception in Perry's Cherokee Strip Museum in April, I overheard a couple making a reference to Mr. Malget in my photo. They told me that he had died three weeks ago. Recalling how few photos I have of my late mother inspired me to print the second photo. I shared both photos with his family. Although I don't know what role Mr. Malget played in the life of Perry, at least I had made a photographic note of his existence."
Perry folks enjoyed getting acquainted with the photographers when they came here for the assignment on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 last year, and apparently the feeling was mutual. We enjoyed playing host to them and they said they want to return here in the future. The Collective is a non-profit arts organization made up of professional, student and amateur photographers. The organization was founded in 1984 to promote photography as an art form. Today it receives partial funding from the State Arts Council of Oklahoma and the National Endowment for the Arts. Their mailing address, if you have questions or comments about their trip to Perry, is: Tulsa Photography Collective, 3525 South Urbana, Tulsa, OK 74135-2041, telephone 918-747-2041.
The Perry project was the Collective's tenth annual assignment of this sort. Previously they visited Pawnee, Drumright, Pawhuska, Nowata, Muskogee, Okmulgee, Tahlequah, Guthrie and Bristow. According to the group's newsletter, they hope to make this type of project an. annual event so that a permanent photographic record of small community life in Oklahoma in the 1980s and 1990s will be preserved.
"In today's world," the newsletter says, "the more we change the more we become alike. There was a time when each town, state and region was distinctively different. Now, with chain restaurants, hotels and retail establishments like McDonald's, K-Mart and Holiday Inn popping up everywhere, it can be hard to tell whether you're in Tokyo, New York or Tulsa. Places are beginning to look the same no matter where you are. The Tulsa Photography Collective's 'On Assignment' project is an attempt to preserve some of the things that make individual Oklahoma towns different from each other."
I dare say Perry has more distinctive qualities in terms of people, buildings and culture than most of America's small towns, so I'm glad the Tulsa group chose our community for their most recent assignment. Let's hope they really mean it when they say they want to come back and see us sometime. We'll welcome them warmly.