If a picture's worth a thousand words, Shane Bevel's written a masterpiece many times over.
With a few trusty lenses, he's captured Tulsa's soon-to-be landmark Gathering Place and the spirit and drive of all those who've made it happen.
“I've worked on this project for years now, and every day I find out things that I didn't know before,” he said.
Bevel talked himself into his dream come true.
First, convincing the George Kaiser Family Foundation that the remarkable park it's building along the Arkansas River should be documented in photographs, from beginning to end.
“Everything out here is huge,” he said. “It's really a unique thing about it.”
Secondly, that he'd be just the man for the job.
Bevel said, “And to be able to photograph the whole project is really, that's a pretty cool assignment. That's a neat way to work.”
He's prowled the hundred-plus acres from the days it was a simple expanse of peaceful green lawn.
“I've really grown to appreciate not just the park but the people and the processes that worked to build it,” he said.
Now, he’s driving muddied ruts that disappear and change direction from day-to-day as the bones of the Gathering Place are poured and pounded into place all about him.
Some days, Bevel gets a heads-up about where he might want to point his lens next, but mostly it's a trek on foot, eyes wide open to the astounding complexity, brute force and delicate care that will end with Tulsa's new landmark calling card to the world.
“It amazes me how much of this stuff is hand-finished, and, again, these guys need to be in the archive, they need to be in the history of the park. I mean, they're the ones who literally put the thing together,” he said.
So Bevel aims to show us their determination, their brawn, their patience and their pride, in being part of a once-in-a-lifetime experience that's become so much more than just a job.
“You know, my guess is they like that work, but they probably don't shoot a group portrait at the end of every job,” Bevel said.
And besides the men and the machines, Bevel hopes to preserve the sense of place, the physical markers, the spots that will soon be underwater, buried beneath mountains of soil and yards of concrete, so that a century-and-more from now, those yet-to-come will know how it was as the great park rose up, and how one man saw and sought to preserve in frozen-time, the benevolence and scope of an unprecedented community gift.
“I mean, we're standing at the bottom of the pond and, in the end, where that piece of equipment's parked, people'll be floatin' their boats over the top of it, not standing in it, so it's kind of cool to be able to photograph it now before all that's done,” he said.
Bevel has produced between 4,000 and 5,000 stills by now; thousands more will likely follow.
A few show up on social media, there might be a coffee table book, but at least there will be an archive, a snapshot in time when unheard-of generosity melded with keen foresight was tied together with precision and muscle and left this city with something remarkable.
And the ages will recount it through one man's eyes.
“You know, if my photography helps drive that message home and in 25, or 50 or 100 years, then that's all I'm looking for,” Bevel said.
The first phase of the Gathering Place should open December 1st.