ENID, Okla. (KFOR) – There are very few communities in America that had a photographer on hand to record the very moment they were born.
But William Prettyman was there on September 16, 1893 when the Cherokee Strip Land Run took place.
Zoom out to a wide shot and the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center is a repository of photographs from a long history of notable picture takers. Archivist Aaron Peters numbers them in the thousands.
“There is absolutely no shortage.” says Peters.
“Tens of thousands,” he states, “beginning in the 1890’s.”
‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ Enid style is a huge room full of history and art.
The figures you see are central actors in its compilation. Frank Baker insists Enid has always produced a unique, visual archive.
“It’s the catalogue and archive of where we’ve been.” says Baker.
William Prettyman roamed the treeless plain.
Photographers like Dick McConkay chronicled Enid’s rise as a center of life and commerce. William Edson captured Enid life in black and white, many of them for the Enid News and Eagle paper.
“We’ve had true artists (from Enid) working in this field,” Baker continues.
Wess Gray bought a camera originally because his older cousin had one. He and his then girlfriend Jolene started taking pictures close to 50 years ago. They married and opened a studio in 1975 that’s seen a parade of city leaders and regular people come to have their portraits made.
“It’s hard to imagine,” says Jolene of the number of sittings. “This is a just a small sample through the years.”
Wess adds, “It’s turned out to be history which is strange because 1975 doesn’t seem that long ago to me.”
Mike Klemme left town as a young man to travel the globe as a professional photographer, but much of his archive now includes pictures of home.
“I’m always glad to come back home. I’m always anxious to come back home,” he smiles. “
A photograph conjures memories and emotions.
But from the moment the shutter snaps, it becomes a piece of history, a kind of document of what happened before.
The pictures here, the exhibition, and these actors represent a town that grew up with them.
For more information on the ‘Frozen in Time’ exhibit and a special evening on April 7th at the museum featuring a history of cocktails go to csrhc.org.
Great State is sponsored by Oklahoma Proton Center