For decades, Gail LoPresto has had a presidential election tradition: She snaps photos of her children holding the next day's Oklahoman.
She got the idea from “Look” or “Life” magazine; it's been so long she can't remember which one for sure. She recalls what the magazine did, though.
“It had the same type of pictures I have, plus a little commentary on what the kids were doing in the different pictures,” said LoPresto, a longtime Putnam City school board member. “I had the opportunity to do it because my son was born between elections.”
LoPresto began the project in 1980, when her son was 1 year old. Given his age, it's no wonder Tony LoPresto looks disinterested. He sits, bleary-eyed, on the couch with a newspaper in his lap. The front page screams: “REAGAN SCORES LANDSLIDE.”
He looks perkier four years later, smiling in his pajamas on a different couch. This time the headline is quieter: “Reagan Sweeps to Victory.”
His sister Miriam, who was just a baby when President Ronald Reagan was re-elected, joins Tony in the 1988 photo. She holds the newspaper tucked beneath her chin. The headline is nearly as large as she is: “BUSH WINS.”
In 1992, Tony sports glasses for the first time in the photo series. His sister has the same bob hairdo as before. They both hold onto a newspaper that shouts: “CLINTON WINS.”
The headline stayed the same four years later, when President Bill Clinton won re-election. In the photo, though, the children look much more mature. You can see the adults they will become peeking through their juvenile faces.
In 2000, Gail LoPresto had to wait awhile before taking a photo. That was the year George W. Bush and Al Gore vied for the presidency in a hotly contested race that came down to recounts. Her photo shows Tony holding the Nov. 8 newspaper, headlined “TOO CLOSE TO CALL.” Miriam holds the Dec. 14 edition, headlined “Finally …;” a day earlier, Gore had conceded defeat.
The 2004 election brought a new photo, showing Tony and Miriam as grown-ups. Bush had been re-elected, and the paper showed a gentler headline: “A season of hope.” The 2008 newspaper took a similar tack, announcing President Barack Obama's victory with a quote: “CHANGE HAS COME TO AMERICA.”
In a recent conversation, Gail LoPresto said she finds the photos fascinating because they chart two parallel courses.
“Over time, in the pictures I took, you can see that we moved. We have different houses, different sofas, different window treatments,” she said. “It's a timeline thing. But something I find really interesting is how The Oklahoman changed over the years, too. You'd say ‘Bush wins' or ‘Clinton wins,' but then there's a change to the headlines.
“Now they say things like ‘season of hope.' … I like that sort of commentary. It seems to me that there's so much information out there now about everything. You don't have to put the president's name in the headline. People know that if it's ‘change' it's probably Obama.”
Gail LoPresto and her husband Kirby have lived in Oklahoma all their lives. Over the years, they've encouraged many young couples to take similar photographs.
Their children are married now. Tony, 33, is a certified public accountant working for Love's Country Store's corporate office in Oklahoma City. Miriam, 29, whose last name has changed to Conrady, is a middle school teacher in Edmond.
“We have no grandchildren,” Gail LoPresto said, applying a little pressure. “But I hope that we will. Our children haven't been married very long. When they do have children, I still will be taking these pictures.”
“Well, they can take them or I can,” she amended, “but I want it to go on.”