Transfer of the Courts

Neil Chapman

A black and white photograph of the Oklahoma Supreme Court Courtroom is a focal point for the Oklahoma Judicial Series. The Courtroom is located on the second floor of the State Capitol at 2300 North Lincoln Boulevard. Although justices’ chambers and staff offices were relocated to the Oklahoma Judicial Center in July 2011, the Supreme Court still meets publicly for oral arguments and ceremonies in this Courtroom. Vermont marble pillars, an ornate ceiling and a bench constructed from West Indian mahogany are original features, dating to 1917. An inscription above the bench on the south wall reads, “The foundations of justice are that no one shall suffer wrong.”

The north wall is inscribed with a quote from Justinian, “The safety of the State is the highest law.” Other photos on display include exteriors of the Oklahoma Judicial Center and the Court of Criminal Appeals Courtroom.

Neil Chapman has worn many hats as a photographer: educator, fine artist, commercial photographer, designer and advisor. His photographs of the Oklahoma Judicial Center capture images often overlooked by the casual observer – a unique angle or an architectural detail that evokes the soul of the building’s unique combination of historic and modern. Chapman began documenting the transition of the Courts from the State Capitol to the Oklahoma Judicial Center in June 2010, while the building was still under construction. The four phases of the project included photographing the Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals in the State Capitol, photographing renovation and construction of the Oklahoma Judicial Center, portraits of Supreme Court Justices and Court of Criminal Appeals Judges and photographing the newly renovated Judicial Center. Thousands of photographs were taken between June 2010 and July 2012. These photographs may be viewed online at chapmansplace.com/oklaprojnc. Many of them also appear in the Annual Report of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma.

Though born and raised in California, Chapman lived in Hobart, Oklahoma in the late fifties and now makes his permanent residence in Edmond. He earned an associate degree in visual arts from Cypress College in 1974. He went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in photographic media from Cal State Long Beach in 1981. His masters in art, emphasis photography, came from Cal State Fullerton and he earned a doctorate of education from the University of La Verne in 1992. He has long been sharing his passion with others – teaching college photography classes at various California institutions since 1979. His work is included in the collections of the Bibleotheque Nationale in Paris, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Southwest Museum and the Center for Creative Photography, among others. His photos have appeared in Time, Architecto, Artweek, Photography in Focus and CameraArts, just to name a few. He photographed and designed the book Santa Clara Portraits: A Proud Tradition, featuring the potters of Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico.

Source: Chapman, Neil, Santa Clara Portraits: A Proud Tradition, 1999; personal interviews, 2013.