Veteran’s tales moved Fort Gibson native

Clifton Adcock

Muskogee Daily Phoenix

2004, SEP 30

For Fort Gibson native Ron Tarver, each click of his camera’s shutter tells a story without a word being spoken.
Tarver, a photographer for the Philadelphia Inquirer for more than 20 years, is returning to Fort Gibson this week for an event honoring him and the book he brought to life with pictures -- “We Were There, Voices of African American Veterans, from World War II to the War in Iraq.”

The event will be at 6:30 p.m. today at the Fort Gibson High School Cafeteria during the Fort Gibson Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors 2004 animal Membership Banquet. Tarver also is scheduled to be at Waldenbooks in Arrowhead Mall at 1 p.m. Saturday for a reading of the book and a book signing.
It’s a huge honor,” Tarver said. “Everybody wants to be recognized by the place where they grew up. It’s flattering, and a little embarrassing.
Tarver said when he was approached by the book’s author, Yvonne Latty, to do the photographs, he was eager to do the project.
“I thought it was a great idea,” he said. “It was at the right time in history to do something like this. I was surprised no one else did it before.”
“Tarver said before he would photograph a person for the book, he would sit down and get to know them first, even spending the whole day talking to one woman before taking her picture.
“Some of them had never even talked about the wars before,” he said. “It was tough on one hand, but it was like a release on the other for them to get this off their chest. It was a moving experience. I was emotional. They cried, I cried.”
Tarver said the hardest photography assignment he did for the book was of his cousin who was an officer in Vietnam.
“I think that was the most nervous I was,” he said. “The whole time growing up he never talked about it. But he warmed up to it right away.”
Tarver said he had a lot of support both in and outside of his family growing up in Fort Gibson. His father was a “serious amateur” photographer and had his own dark room and let Tarver help develop pictures. Later, Tarver was a photographer at Fort Gibson High School before majoring in journalism at Northeastern State University and later became a photographer for the Muskogee Daily Phoenix after graduation.
“Photography was always a part of my life one way or the other,” Tarver said. Photography is my entire life. It’s not just a job to me. It’s a way to communicate ideas. Writing does it as well, but photography does it more dramatically because you can see what’s going on. My goal from the onset has always been to communicate through my pictures.”
Though he comes back to his hometown regularly, Tarver said he always enjoys being back in Fort Gibson among family and old friends.
“When I think of growing up, I think of home,” he said. “It’s a comfortable feeling. A lot of the things change, a lot of things stay the same. I’m just very grateful.”
Darla Cantrell of Fort Gibson, a friend of Tarver’s who is also helping organize the event, said reservations are still available for the event.
Cantrell said Tarver was a hard worker who deserved the recognition.
“To me it’s a big deal because he is a hometown guy from very humble beginnings,” Cantrell said.
“He grew up here and has worked hard.”