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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Oxford photojournalist featured at Winter Olympics

Thursday, February 7, 2002

Making his mark on the world, Oxford photojournalist Gary Langston, has seen it, done it, lived it and will soon realize his dream as people from all walks of life view his work exhibited at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The Navajo nation has built an international cultural pavilion at the Olympics costing about $2 million which will be open Feb. 1-24, Langston said. The pavilion is to help attract tourism and to gain interest in the Navajo people, their land and culture.

Langston's work entitled "Walking In Beauty" has been reproduced into lithographic quality posters which will be given to each of the 1,200 Olympic competitors.

The image has been printed on 250,000 brochures for national and international audiences. Some of Langston's other photographs will be on display for the public's viewing and enjoyment at the pavilion. According to Langston, this is the second international event his work has been featured in. Doors opened for him when his work was displayed at the 2000 exhibit at the United Nations headquarters in New York. "Keepers of the Wisdom -- Local Cultures, Global Perspectives," his photography exhibit, has since toured the country and Langston has served as guest lecturer.

He gained recognition when his work was shown at the United Nations-sponsored "Habitat Two Conference" in Istanbul in 1996. In 2000 his work was featured at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan. His work reflects the philosophy of the Navajo, including their culture of wholeness and wellness.

His down time is spent at his home in Oxford, which consists of a 300-acre ranch that belonged to his beloved grandmother, Mammie Mitchell, who died at age 97. About 100 of those acres include prime hay land on the Strawberry River. A natural spring that can be used as a backup in case of a drought will ensure that hay production goes on. A family friend, Donnie Bookout, takes care of the homestead when Langston is traveling. His faithful companion, who has accompanied him throughout his travels, is his Labrador retriever, Hot Chocolate. Langston recently became the proud owner of a border collie mix named Josie Wales Outlaw Dog.His interest in Native Americans began as a young boy. After his first trip to a reservation in 1977, he realized his love and passion for the people and their land. He knew that one day he would write a book and have an exhibit.

As a teen-ager Langston's hobbies included helping out an area rodeo producer and riding quarter horses. He showed his family's Hereford cattle, winning championships and also a state 4-H title.

Langston attributes much of his success to his education, passion and perseverance. He majored in psychology at Hendrix College in Conway, went on to graduate school at Drew University in New Jersey where he received a master of divinity degree in counseling psychology. After moving to San Antonio he attended graduate school in 1993 and studied photojournalism at St. Mary's University. He has completed his thesis for his master's degree in art and photography at Arkansas State University.

Through his work his interest in Native Americans was an experience that remained with him. He continues to visit his friends in the Southwest, dividing much of his time between Arkansas and New Mexico, and spending time on the Navajo reservation, being a part of 17 million acres that covers parts of New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.

Life on the East Coast is where his interest in photography took root. After purchasing his first camera, he entered a contest, winning in the photo competition, and remained an amateur photographer until 1990. Camera in hand, his simple logic is to experiment, use one's imagination and try something out of the ordinary.

His interest in Native Americans brought about a photography exhibit showcasing Native American culture. Hasselblad Camera Corporation provided equipment for this venture after being sold on his work. Langston used money from a pension fund and raised additional funds, and that is when his dream became a reality.

In 1995, Sports Illustrated, Canon U.S.A. Inc. and Delta Airlines held a national photo competition on sports. Langston entered a photograph of Navajo children playing basketball at an old sheep camp and became the national grand prize winner.

Sports Illustrated told him that his work needed to be exhibited at the United Nations. Lou Desiderio of Canon helped Langston get a grant from the company so he could continue shooting for the exhibit that was his dream, and the American Paint Horse Association helped underwrite the exhibit.

After five years of hard work his exhibit at the United Nations came to fruition. It included over 45 large-format images in color, black and white, and sepia-tone. The collection has been shown at universities, museums and colleges.

It's not about him Langston said, explaining that he strives for the public to realize through his exhibits, books and photography the contributions Native Americans have made. They have tremendous respect for all living things in creation and the interdependence of all life. Because of their spirituality, they are more holistic in life and philosophy, he explained.

After his work was featured in Western Horsemen, Dr. Roy Lee from Harrison contacted him, told him he was impressed with the work he had done with Native Americans and youth. Lee donated three registered paint colts to him. Langston kept one. He gave one to Pattie Arthur who is featured on the poster given to the Olympic contenders; she is a longtime friend of his. He gave the third horse to her school in Pinehill, N.M., on the Navaho reservation.

He attributes much of his success with the Native Americans to his passion for their culture and believes he has a kindred spirit with them which has created a sense of trust among them.

Mel Tillis' Dinner Theatre has booked an exhibit of his photography in July. Pam Tillis and New Riders will headline the opening and reception.

Sometime in the near future, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian Magazine will use his images on sacred places featuring the Navajo reservation, he said.

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