Picher, Oklahoma
Catastrophe, Memory,and Trauma

University of Oklahoma Press, 2016
Photography by Todd Stewart
Essay by Alison Fields
2016. 224 pp., 154 color 38 B&W illus.
8x10 in
Hardcover ISBN: 9780806151656
Volume 20 in Charles M. Russell Center Series on Art and Photography of the American West

On May 10, 2008, a tornado struck the northeastern Oklahoma town of Picher, destroying more than one hundred homes and killing six people. It was the final blow to a onetime boomtown already staggering under the weight of its history. The lead and zinc mining that had given birth to the town had also proven its undoing, earning Picher in 2006 the distinction of being the nation’s most toxic Superfund site. Recounting the town’s dissolution and documenting its remaining traces, Picher, Oklahoma tells the story of an unfolding ghost town. With shades of Picher’s past lives lingering at every intersection, memories of its proud history and sad decline inhere in the relics, artifacts, personal treasures, and broken structures abandoned in disaster’s wake.

In Todd Stewart’s haunting photographs, faded snapshots and letters, well-worn garments, and books and toys give harrowing and elegiac testimony of constancy and dislocation. Empty buildings and bared foundations stand in silent witness to the homes, schools, churches, and businesses that once defined life in Picher. As these photographs and Alison Fields’s accompanying essays explore the otherworldly town teetering over massive sinkholes, they reveal how memory, embedded in everyday objects, can be dislocated and reframed through both chronic and acute instances of environmental trauma.

Though hardly known outside the Three Corners Region of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri, the fate of Picher echoes well beyond its borders. Picher, Oklahoma reflects the broader intersections of memory, time, material objects, and changing environments, demanding our attention even as it resists easy interpretation.

Placing Memory
A Photographic Exploration of Japanese American Internment

University of Oklahoma Press, 2008
Photography by Todd Stewart
Essays by Natasha Egan and Karen J. Leong
Afterword by John Tateishi
208. 132 pp., 62 color 40 B&W illus. and 2 maps
12x9 in
Hardcover ISBN: 9780806139517
Volume 20 in Charles M. Russell Center Series on Art and Photography of the American West

When the U.S. government incarcerated 120,000 Japanese Americans as “domestic enemy aliens” during World War II, most other Americans succumbed to their fears and endorsed the confinement of their fellow citizens. Ten “relocation centers” were scattered across the West. Today, in the crumbling foundations, overgrown yards, and material artifacts of these former internment camps, we can still sense the injustices suffered there.

Placing Memory is a powerful visual record of the internment. Featuring Todd Stewart’s stunning color photographs of the sites as they appear today, the book provides a rigorous visual survey of the physical features of the camps—roads, architectural remains, and monuments—along with maps and statistical information.

Also included in this volume—juxtaposed with Stewart’s modern-day images—are the black-and-white photographs commissioned during the 1940s by the War Relocation Authority. Thoughtful essays by Karen Leong, Natasha Egan, and John Tateishi provide provocative context for all the photographs.

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