Photographer captures words of wisdom from Oklahoma centenarians on how to live a good life

by AryanArtnews
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Oklahoma City (KFOR) – KFOR wants to spotlight Oklahoma’s notable women. After receiving numerous nominations, there are four finalists who have spotlighted Oklahoma’s notable women. This is the third in the series until the winner is announced on March 30th.

In the winding OKC underground under the hustle and bustle of downtown, words of wisdom from those celebrating Oklahoma’s 100th anniversary are assembled.

“They have survived pandemics, flu, world wars, personal losses, and dust bowls,” said MJ Alexander.

The Oklahoma Centenarian installation by photographer MJ Alexander is lined up in the downtown OKC underground.
“Take a turn: our secret to a happy marriage? He is sometimes a boss. Sometimes he is not.”

At the 2007 Oklahoma Centennial, photographer MJ Alexander traveled to the state for the 100th anniversary. She found 144 and woven their words and portraits into her book “Salt of the Red Earth: A Century of Wisdom and Wisdom from the Elders of Oklahoma.”

MJ Alexander is an Oklahoma photographer, writer, journalist, poet, lyricist and script writer. She was nominated for KFOR’s Remarkable Women series.

MJ turns the page and reads out life tips. “Her secret to living her good life is to drink hot Tody every morning,” she said. And on another page, MJ read aloud, “She said,’Honestly, go to church and pay your bill.'”

MJ Alexander’s Book, Red Earth Salt: A Century of Wisdom and Wisdom from the Elders of Oklahoma.

From the other side of the lens, MJ captured the raw emotions of the eyes and all the traces of the skin created by life in the first century.

“I still take dance lessons every Friday. Dance moves are fun,” MJ said, reading a quote from Doris Eaton Travis.

At the age of 14, Doris was the youngest dancer in New York’s Ziegfeld Follies before moving to Oklahoma.

Doris Eaton Travis

“I feel responsible for their heritage. I feel responsible for sharing their wisdom with the Oklahoma people and the world. And to put their words out there and keep their spirits alive. Whatever I can do, “said MJ.

For her second book, “Portrait of Generations: Boys and Daughters of the Red Earth,” MJ turned the table. Instead of looking back on her life, she was looking through the eyes of the young Oklahoma and looking forward to where they would lead us.

MJ Alexander’s second book “Portrait of Generations: Boys and Daughters of the Red Earth”

“His mom said,’I want to work wisely, not hard.'” MJ read, pointing at a picture of a little boy in an antique tricycle.

She is also an artist. Her work casts a shadow of tenderness at Dolphin Wharton Park in Oklahoma City and a shadow of peace at Andrews Park in Norman.

MJ Alexander’s art installation at Dolphin Wharton Park in Oklahoma City. Provided by MJ Alexander.
MJ Alexander’s art installation at Norman’s Andrew Spark. Provided by MJ Alexander.

“During the pandemic, I did 13 installations,” she said.

Like her awards, there are too many to mention. However, this member, who was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, is also a poet and lyricist. She is married to composer Ed Knight, who are working together to create music art.

“So he wrote a beautiful song around the rhythm of my words.”

Alongside Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Canterbury Voice performed some of their many works.

Performance of music and lyrics composition by Ed Knight and MJ Alexander. Courtesy of Canterbury Voices in collaboration with OKC Philharmonic.

MJ uses a camera to tell the story of Oklahoma, but during the 2020 storm, a fire burned everything but one, destroying the couple’s 100-year-old house. She later found a camera in her car.

“I have one, but that’s all I need!” She said.

Left: Ed composing music in his office before the fire. Right: Where Ed’s office once stood. Provided by MJ Alexander.

They are still rebuilding and thinking positively. Behind the great lens of life, this photographer sees gratitude as a whole.

“I was very lucky to meet so many people, go to so many places and get a lot of attention to it. And I appreciate it and don’t take it for granted. “

And if one photo is really worth a thousand words, then MJ Alexander’s photo is worth millions.

MJ Alexander flips through her portrait book.

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