Photographs capture everyday people of Tulsa
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Sunday, December 30, 2012
12/30/12 at 2:04 PM
Everyday People: Go to the Everyday People website to view all the photographs taken in the series.
Each day, every day, for the past 365 days, Tulsa World photographer John Clanton has gone out into the city in search of a face.
It is a search that has taken him from bars in west Tulsa to bakeries out east of town, and that has brought Clanton in contact with prisoners and preachers, artists and activists, shoe salesmen and street musicians, children and corporate executives, working cowboys and recovering addicts.
These 365 faces form the mosaic that is "Everyday People," an online series of photographs that have been posted throughout 2012 on the Tulsa World's website.
Each image includes a brief description of the subject - a bit about his or her history, or a description of where the photograph was shot and what the person was doing at the time, perhaps a quote that gives an extra insight into this particular person's life and mind.
The series has become an exhibit that is on display at the Henry Zarrow Center for Art and Education, 124 E. Brady St.
Well, most of it is on display. Right now, 278 of the photographs are up at the Zarrow Center - a few large-scale individual portraits, the rest assembled in mosaic-like grids.
The final 88 images - as 2012 is a leap year, Clanton will ultimately shoot 366 portraits - will go on display as part of the show's official opening Friday during the Brady Arts District's regular First Friday Art Walk, 6-9 p.m.
"Everyday People" began as a way for Clanton to reacquaint himself with the city and people of Tulsa. Clanton was a Tulsa World staff photographer from 2000 to 2005, then moved to Oklahoma City for six years to work for The Oklahoman.
"When I came back to Tulsa after six years," he said, "I realized that a lot about the city had changed. I wanted to find a way to really re-connect with Tulsa, to find new stories to tell. So I wrote down in a notebook, 'What if I had to meet a new person every day?' What would that entail?"
Clanton discussed the project with the World's assistant chief photographer, Christopher Smith, who came up with a few guidelines: that each photograph be shot in a vertical format and that the same camera lens be used for every portrait.
"In news photography, the natural tendency is to frame an image horizontally, to try and capture as much of the context of a scene as you can," Smith said. "But since the focus of this project was on the individual, the vertical format seemed more appropriate. And vertical images would work better in a grid format."
Clanton chose to use a 50 mm lens for the "Everyday People" project.
"The reason for that is," he said, "that particular lens gives you an image that is as close as possible to what the human eye sees. There is very little distortion. I also shot all of these using a 1.4 f-stop, which lets in a lot of light. That way, every picture was shot with available light.
"It was a way to democratize the whole thing," Clanton said. "I was able to approach photographing a millionaire and a homeless man in exactly the same way. And the result was something that was as close as possible to seeing exactly what I saw when I was standing in front of this person."
Some of the portraits in "Everyday People" grew out of Tulsa World assignments. Clanton's May 14 portrait of Kimberly Butler, amid the hundreds of prom dresses in her shop, came about when Clanton was covering a story in Tahlequah.
"That was one of those moments when the environment really caught my attention," Clanton said. "Other times, something about a person's eyes or expression might draw me in, and I'll ask if I could take their photo."
Some subjects Clanton did not have to search to find. George Kozine, whose photo appeared Nov. 13, is the crossing guard near the school Clanton's children attend.
But Clanton made it a point not to limit his searches for "Everyday People" to the people he would ordinarily meet in the course of the day.
"The real purpose of this project was to put myself in places I wouldn't otherwise ever go to and to meet people I wouldn't normally meet," he said.
When Clanton began the project, it was sometimes difficult to convince people to participate. A couple of times, he had five different people turn down his request to photograph them.
"Once it had been going on for a while, I could show them the photos on my iPhone, and that helped them understand what I was wanting to do and how the photographs would be used," Clanton said. "And I've had people give me suggestions that have led to some of the pictures in the series.
"But it's always been on my mind - finding that portrait of the day," he said, smiling. "I never had one of those moments when it's 11:30 at night and I suddenly think, 'Oh man, I've got to get a portrait!' "
Smith added, "When we were kicking around ideas about this project, it was pretty easy for me to say, 'Yeah, go ahead and do it.' And I think it was easy for John to say, 'OK, I will.' But I really have to give him credit for the dedication he's brought to this project, the amount of time and care he's given to it, to create this document of this city and its people."
That is how Clanton sees "Everyday People" - as a document that offers a glimpse of life in Tulsa in the year 2012, one that reveals the complexity and unity of all the many types of people who call Tulsa and Oklahoma home.
"I hope it's a diverse enough group of images that it gives everyone a chance to see themselves in these photographs," Clanton said.
That will be literally true for Clanton. Unlike every other picture in "Everyday People," which are the products of some form of serendipity, Clanton has known who the subject of the Dec. 31, 2012, photo will be for some time.
"Me," he said, with a laugh. "It'll be a true self-portrait."
Original Print Headline: Photos capture everyday Tulsa people
James D. Watts Jr 918-581-8478
When she was a kid, Sacha Matheos liked bees. "I thought they were my friends," she says. When she got stung the first time, she remembers thinking, "He must be a new bee. He doesn't know me." Matheos started learning how to care for bees in her backyard a couple of years ago. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Top row from left: Kamlah Milad teaches English at Union High School. Chuck Williams moved to northeast Oklahoma four years ago from his home in Nevada. Jess Lambert comes out to the flea market "looking for odds and ends." Mollie Howell is the senior class president at Edison Preparatory School in Tulsa. Middle row from left: Mike Lear is a new member of the Green Country Model Railroaders' Association. Kasey Hughart says that she's passionate about helping people. Cal and Sierra Berkenbile are newly married after dating since they were 15 years old. Marian Cubbage was born in 1908. She was a school teacher back in the 1930s. Bottom row from left: Alimay Daniels has worked a part-time job at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center since 1992. "I'm not going to tell you how old I am." Dominic D'andrea's father is from Rhode Island. His mom is from Wisconsin. He was born in Tulsa eight months ago and then baptized in Italy. Shelly James and her husband bought a meat market in east Tulsa so they could spend time together in their retirement. Brian Phillips says he's outgoing and enjoys walking around. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World