Everyday People

Jan 15, 2013

Everyday People display
Credit John Clanton

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but what about 365 pictures? An exhibit in the Brady District features portraits of Tulsans from each day of 2012. Gail Banzet reports on how an ambitious photographer took on the challenge.

Nat sound of John talking to Tommy …

Just before the new year, Tulsa World photographer John Clanton visits a mid-town grocery store to find his next subject. It’s day 362 of his year-long project and grocery bagger Tommy Wallace poses for a photo.

Nat sound of camera clicking …

Clanton had a busy year in 2012. Besides his regular newspaper assignments, there was the daily task of asking permission to take a person’s photograph. His record was five refusals in one day but he says it always worked out.

“But then you find the fifth or sixth person is the perfect person for that day and they kind of make your day.

Clanton worked at the Tulsa World for five years before moving away and taking a different job. When he returned to Tulsa and his former employer, he was looking for a way to reconnect with the city.

“I wanted to meet people that I had known years before but also meet new people and get into new parts of town and places I wouldn’t otherwise go. So I had this idea last November right after I got back – the challenge of meeting a new person every day.”

So with his camera in tow he kicked off 2012 in search of his first photograph.

“I went to a church in North Tulsa on Sunday, the day 2012 started and got a guy that was answering the door – ushering people into the door. There are no rules about how I find people to photograph. Some of them are totally random.”

Day by day, the pictures began to stack up and Clanton posted each of them on the Tulsa World website under the title “Everyday People.” A mix of colors, expressions and backgrounds, the photos document Tulsa and its people in 2012.

“Looking at the calendar last December thinking every single day I had to get a picture seemed overwhelming but when you’re in the middle of it, it doesn’t really. I love this work. I love meeting people. This is my favorite part of being a journalist is going out and hearing people’s stories and photographing them. ”

Clanton photographed his subjects using a Canon 5D Mark II and a 50 millimeter lens at 1.4. He didn’t use any reflectors or flashes, only the light already available. That way, Clanton says each person is seen through the same lens.

“The CEO gets photographed exactly the same as the homeless person. Everybody is seen the same way.”

From every age, race and walk of life, Clanton met people who agreed to let him take their picture. He visited churches, prisons, restaurants and even stopped in at special events around the city.

Nat sound of him on his computer …

Clanton reviews the photos posted online, each accompanied by a brief description of that person. He says he remembers them all but certain photos will always be special.

“For example, this guy is a friend of mine. He was a photographer for the Norman Transcript for years and that was the last time I ever saw him. He died not long after that.”

From the interesting, wonderful and sometimes bizarre personalities he encountered in 2012, Clanton says the project taught him a lot about people.

“I love the idea that we all have that thing that we’re into. Everybody’s got their passion. It could be your work. It could be your pastime. Everybody’s got something they care about and they’ll usually share it if you if you ask them about it.”

The complete collection of Everyday People photos is available at tulsaworld.com and on exhibit at the Henry Zarrow Center for Art and Education in the Brady Arts District until January 20. The exhibit includes one bonus photo for Day 366: photographer John Clanton himself. For KWGS News, I’m Gail Banzet.