This new museum exhibit showcases the unique body of work of George W. Long (1881-1968), known as the photographer of the Kiowas. Long’s story began in Hill County Texas, where as a young man he developed an interest in photography and portraiture. He soon made a business of his hobby by walking from one farmhouse to another taking family photos. He began taking photographs in Southwest Oklahoma in the early 1900’s. He worked in Hobart, Mountain View, Hollis and Walters, as well as Wellington Texas, before opening a studio in Lone Wolf in 1940, which he maintained until 1946. His wife, Sallie I. Long (1887-1983), worked in the studio with him. Her darkroom work included developing prints as well as loading glass plates into special holders, a task that had to be accomplished in total darkness. While the mainstay of Long’s business was photographing ordinary people and events, the close association he cultivated with members of the Kiowa and Comanche tribes, as well as his great friendship with the Kiowa Chief, Lone Wolf, led to a remarkable series of images during a period when the Plain Indians were redefining their identities. In later years, Long made frames for his photographs using salvaged crates and cigar boxes. These salvaged frames are now known as tramp-art and were designed to complement the American Indian theme of his body of work. Tramp art is a style of wood carving that flourished in the US from the mid-1870s to the 1940s and is characterized by ornate layered whittling with the outside edges of each layer being notched or chip-carved. What began as a niche market for Long has now assumed greater significance, providing a rare glimpse into the lives of his American Indian subjects.
In 1968, the Western Trail Historical Society learned that the George W. Long Photographic collection was being offered for sale. The board members personally provided the funds necessary to secure the collection until the money for its purchase was raised through membership sales. This collection is comprised of photographs, negatives, equipment, tramp-art frames, cameras, lenses, and other objects, all of which will be featured in this new exhibit that will become a permanent attraction in the newly renovated McMahan Gallery.
This evening event on March 7 will also premiere an art exhibition titled The Stories They Could Tell featuring the work of local artist Brian Nichols. Nichols has created a number of new canvases for this show – all of abandoned barns, sheds, houses, and other structures that have seen life in Southwest Oklahoma.
In addition, museum guests will be entertained by the Just Call Us When You Need Us musicians directed by Donna Tucker and treated to delicious hors d’oeuvres served by the Western Trail Historical Society board members. The event is free and open to the public.