Oklahoma series

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Photographed in Tulsa, Summer 2018, with the original Agfa Scala 120 slide film and a Mamiya 7ii 6x7 camera w/65mm lens 

From a handful of leftover rolls I’d found before beginning the Oklahoma series in June  

Such a wonderfully unique film, and one that is being produced again but only in 35mm

dr5 lab in Iowa is the only lab to process it, and they do fantastic work. And with a multitude of b&w films 

For A PLAIN VIEW, I used my old 4x5 Graflex Speed Graphic view camera and expired Kodak color films, which is being repeated for this new series (Portra 160vc Readyload), but I wanted to include 35mm (Portra 400) and 120 film (Scala)

It’s been nice moving between the three formats, and color and b&w—roaming small-town neighborhoods and making photographs from the passenger seat with the Leica M6, for example, is allowing me to make photographs that I wouldn’t be making as many of had I opted for 4x5 exclusively

Saves time, too, but more importantly it’s allowing the series to feel a bit multidimensional

Each format and medium tell their own story, but there’s a cohesiveness to the lot of the photographs that I’m starting to see more and more of as I sort through what I’ve exposed thus far

This series marks the first time I’ve worked on a project using multiple formats and mediums  

When I’d set out to start photographing for the project, the idea was to just document Tulsa, but after spending two weeks there at the beginning of June, it became clear to me that it would mean more, and be more fulfilling for me, to document Oklahoma as I’d done Texas for A PLAIN VIEW 

There’s something about roaming new places by car, being on unknown highways and approaching unknown towns, that has a certain allure and excitement to it 

Being in Tulsa was extremely inspiring, but I find myself most inspired when I’m driving 

Tulsa is a very unique, beautifully barren city, and I found myself fascinated by it each day, and was productive there, but when I went back to Oklahoma after having decided to document ‘anywhere Oklahoma,’ I found myself with a motivation I’d felt teetering toward the end of my stay in Tulsa 

I like to move and roam and anticipate what lay ahead 

And I’m especially inspired by rural America and what lay behind  

This other life; the quiet and what remains  

These places that have that special small-town cinematic quality to them  

That second trip back up to Oklahoma from Texas, as I’d suspected would be the case, there were things to photograph as soon as I crossed the border. Interesting things. I was thrilled  

In Wills, Oklahoma, I made my first exposures just north of Lake Texoma, off Highway 377

I covered a lot of ground that second trip, and made quite a lot of exposures—close to 20 4x5, about 8 or so rolls of 120, and 6 or so rolls of 35. In four days  

I was accompanied by my 14-year-old son, Pilot, who made his own photographs 

He also documented much of the trip on digital video for what’s to become a short behind-the-scenes documentary to be realeased in conjunction with my exhibition next year 

His footage is beautiful. Very proud  

That little haul around Oklahoma with Pilot was his and my first photo road trip together since last summer. It’s a remarkable thing traveling with him. I look forward to doing it with my other kids, too, as they get older  

This series was commissioned by the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa for a 6-month exhibition to open June 2019

The Philbrook has two museums, one in an old 1930s villa, and one downtown, on the same block as the amazing Woody Guthrie Center  

Both very beautiful spaces  

I’m thrilled the kind folks at the museum commissioned this work

They take a unique and much looser approach than most museums  

They seem to be driven by breaking tradition and supporting artists, on all levels 

It exists without the kind of snobbery and elitism, and certainly the ‘formalities,’ that other museums can be known for 

Wonderful people up there  

I’m planning two more trips around Oklahoma for the series, and to cover as much of the state as I can in that time  

I’ve already begun making test prints of some of the photos from the first two trips up there 

Some pretty good results so far 

I will be posting more Oklahoma photos and updates here over the coming months  

Once done making the photos for the series I’ll be spending my time editing and preparing the exhibition and accompanying book, which will release at the end of the exhibition 

Jason Lee5 Comments