Above, photographer David Vernon directs Doug and Diane Oberhelman on their farm in rural Peoria County, June 2019
Since its inception in 2013, Peoria Magazines’ Local Legends program has presented deep, thoughtful interviews with some of our community’s finest leaders, in conjunction with an intimate cocktail reception in their honor. It is always one of my favorite times of the year—sitting down with these remarkable men and women to learn what makes them tick.
Sometimes the interview becomes a definitive document of someone’s legacy, a top result for future Google searches. At times it must be done in multiple parts because there’s just too much to say—so many stories to tell. Everything must be edited down and fit for print, of course, and invariably a good story (or two… or five) ends up on the cutting-room floor. Sometimes things get emotional, as one might expect dredging up memories from decades past. I’ve seen numerous individuals break down in tears, and I’ve made some lifelong friends as well.
Most, but not all, of these interviews are conducted in person, and I’m personally unable to do all of them—though I wish that I could. (Thanks to Mae Gilliland Wright and Stevie Zvereva for their always-fantastic and insightful contributions.) Of course, the interview is just one component of the feature—equally important are the photographs, which allow you to peer into their souls.
David Vernon has photographed 30 of the 34 Local Legends (as singles or pairs), and says he looks forward to it every year. “They are always engaging and enjoyable, and you always learn something,” he explains. “These folks have such gravitas that you just want to make as solid and respectful a set of images as you can.”
While Vernon’s work has been displayed in print and online, his Legends photographs have never been seen together… until now. Beginning in late August, an exhibition of his Local Legends collection will be on display at One World Café for a four-week run. In the meantime, check out peoriamagazines.com/local-legends for the complete, legendary lineup. —Jonathan Wright, Editor-In-Chief