Exhibit C in Chickasaw Country is featuring the work of five Native American photographers from different tribal backgrounds.
Oklahoma City’s Exhibit C Gallery is showcasing works by five First American photographers representing various tribes, including Cherokee, Chickasaw, Patawomeck, Kiowa, and Otoe-Missouria.
Visual Narratives: First American Photography features artists Philip Busey Jr., Peggy Fontenot, Lester Harragarra, Kelly Langley, and Jim Trosper. The installation, which remains on view through February 28, explores First American heritage and culture from the different perspectives of their various backgrounds and tribal influences.
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“It’s often been said that the camera doesn’t lie,” says Paige Williams Shepherd, director of tourism for the Chickasaw Nation, “and this exhibit certainly offers a powerful glimpse into each subject, whether it’s a rural landscape, tribal ceremony, or a breathtaking destination. These artists have done a remarkable job at capturing moments in time that also tell an entire story.”
Meet The Photographers
In 2002, Philip Busey Jr., a Cherokee Nation citizen, first picked up a camera while participating in the Washington Internship for Native Students (WINS) Program at American University in Washington, D.C. That led to a solo exhibition at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, where he enrolled, and catapulted him to becoming the staff photographer for the campus’ weekly student newspaper, a local daily newspaper, and the university’s public relations office. For more than a decade, from 2004 to 2015, he all but abandoned photography, only to rediscover his passion after establishing a career as an executive in the aerospace defense industry. His stills focus on landscape and art.
Los Angeles-based artist Peggy Fontenot, a member of the Patawomeck Indian Tribe of Virginia and a certified Potawatomi artist, works in various mediums, including photography, beadwork, and precious metals. Her photographs document relevant social issues, including the plight of First Americans. Her work, which has been exhibited nationally for nearly 40 years, has graced the walls of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., the Briscoe Western Art Museum in San Antonio, and the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe, to name just a few. She remains devoted to film, foregoing digital imagery, and still processes her prints in her wet darkroom using a split-filter technique.
Photographer Lester Harragarra’s First American roots run deep. A member of the Otoe-Missouria tribe and a descendant of the Kiowa tribe, his father was a World War II veteran and former tribal chairman. His paternal grandfather was one of the last hereditary chiefs of the Otoe-Missouria tribe, while his paternal grandmother is credited with initiating the first American War Mothers Indian chapter in 1943. His mother was one of the first members of the Kiowa tribe to graduate from the University of Oklahoma (class of 1951). Harragarra’s interest in photography began at an early age when an aunt presented him with his first camera for his 8th birthday. While attending the University of New Mexico, where he studied engineering, he purchased a 35 mm camera and spent hours in the darkroom. His photographs capture the brilliant colors of First American headdresses and ribbon skirts as well as haunting images of buffalo and life on the range.
Native Oklahoman Kelly Langley, Ph.D., is a retired educator and member of the Chickasaw Nation. Her early interest in photography was rediscovered as an adult while living in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, where she spent time exploring the region’s beauty and national parks. Her award-winning images have been exhibited in museums and galleries, as well as juried competitions throughout the Southwest. While many of her landscape photographs recall her rural Oklahoma upbringing, Dr. Langley’s portfolio also highlights a range of subjects fostered by her keen interest in the world around her and a love of travel.
Chickasaw citizen Jim Trosper believes that the fundamentals of good photography are needed to create a good photo, but emotion is essential to producing a great image. From an early age, he was rarely without a camera in hand, taking pictures during family vacations and elsewhere. He earned a degree in photographic arts from the University of Central Oklahoma. As a professional photographer, Trosper has spent much of his time capturing live bands at the Zoo Amphitheatre and live horse racing in Oklahoma City and other destinations, such as White Sands National Park in New Mexico.
Visual Narratives: First American Photography is on view through February 28 at Exhibit C Gallery, in Oklahoma City’s Bricktown district. 1 E. Sheridan, 405.767.8900, exhibitcgallery.com.
About Chickasaw Country
Located in south-central Oklahoma, Chickasaw Country is a regional tourism organization representing 13 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties. As the official destination tourism organization, Chickasaw Country includes 7,648 square miles, 11 percent of Oklahoma’s total 68,597 square miles. Chickasaw Country, a division of the Chickasaw Nation, is a tourism source for visitors and communities within the region and promotes destinations, attractions, and festivals.
About Exhibit C Gallery
Exhibit C Gallery, Oklahoma City’s premier First American art gallery, is located in Oklahoma City’s Bricktown district. The gallery displays works of numerous artists from the Chickasaw and Southeastern tribes and artists from across Indian Country. Open daily from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. at 1 E. Sheridan, Oklahoma City. All art and retail in the Exhibit C Gallery are for available for purchase.
(Photography: Featured image by Lester Harragarra and other images courtesy Exhibit C)