Emory Acquires Sherman’s Iconic Photo Collection

Emory Acquires Sherman’s Iconic Photo Collection

Ohio native Ron Sherman is touted for his decades of photographing Atlanta’s milestones, major players, and noteworthy events.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

Hank Aarons 715th home run (1974), breaking Babe Ruth’s career home run record // Photo Credit: Ron Sherman Photography
Hank Aarons 715th home run (1974), breaking Babe Ruth’s career home run record // Photo Credit: Ron Sherman Photography

For decades, local photographer Ron Sherman has chronicled the “Who’s Who” and “What’s What” in our city’s very rich and deep history. Thus, it was no surprise when archivists at Emory University recently acquired 500,000 of his black and white negatives, contact sheets, 35mm color transparencies and digital files.

Sherman said, “My archives of Atlanta photographs are now preserved in the Archives of the Rose Library at Emory University. They will be a resource for students, researchers, and the public. As a photographer, I have lived a charmed life. Never in a million years could I have dreamed that I would cover so many people, places, and events that have made significant positive changes in Atlanta’s future.”

In 2014, Emory acquired Sherman’s coverage of the elections of Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young, governor and President Jimmy Carter, the KKK, Hank Aaron’s 715th home run, civil demonstrations and everyday life in that decade. Then in 2022, they added his archives of 500,000 photos, including black and white negatives, contact sheets, color transparencies, digital files, and notes from 1971 to 2021.

Sherman’s first great photo: “Gasoline Fire” (1972) // Photo Credit: Ron Sherman Photography

Backing up, young Sherman left Cleveland, Ohio, for Atlanta, the growing southern city of just over two million people. He recalled, “From my arrival in Atlanta as a photojournalist, I was privileged to be an eyewitness to the evolution of one of the world’s most vibrant and exciting cities. News assignments for United Press International, TIME (Magazine), and Newsweek gave me access to an endless list of people, places, and events. The list of clients grew over the years.”

His first opportunity was when he saw smoke from a fire on the horizon, grabbed his camera, and was first on the scene at a major gasoline fire in Doraville (1972). One of his most famous photographs covers a 5’x8’ print at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., of Hank Aaron after he hit his, at the time, record-breaking 715th home run.

“Chattahoochee River” (2015), taken from the Roswell Road Bridge // Photo Credit: Ron Sherman Photography

He recalled, “With hundreds of photographers shooting that night, why I got this shot and no one else did still makes me smile. Atlanta (Fulton) County Stadium was filled with many, including Mayor Maynard Jackson, Gov. Jimmy Carter, and Sammy Davis, Jr. I picked the third base field position since Aaron was a right-handed batter. When he hit the home run and rounded second base, I made the iconic image of the two teens tapping him on his shoulder. I discovered later that the photo was one-of-a-kind. Not one of the hundred photographers or fans in the stadium captured that image.”

Other subjects in the photo archive include the busy airport, the ever-changing Atlanta skyline, Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta History Center, the King Center, and High Museum of Art.

Peachtree Road Race, July 4, 1995, after the awards with T-shirts and the outdoor shower // Photo Credit: Ron Sherman Photography

“There were assignments from national and local publications for these images. Most of the time, I was on my own, exploring the city to expand my photo library,” he said. Unique places were the Varsity, as the World’s largest drive-through restaurant; Piedmont Park, with its diversity of festivals and demonstrations; and the Chattahoochee River’s paths, boating, fishing, and views of great sunsets.

Atlanta-based businesses sought out Sherman: Coca-Cola, Delta, CNN, Home Depot, Chick-fil-A, where he photographed their executives. He mused, “Coca-Cola’s Roberto Goizueta was the toughest, in the time allocated. The interview part went long, and I had only 15 minutes to make all three photos. It was tough, but the editor was pleased.”

Emory University recently acquired 500,000 of Ron Sherman’s prints spanning decades.

Other executives allowed ample time. Delta CEO Tom Beebe posed outside in the company’s signature jet; Truitt Cathy, Chick-fil-A founder, posed in the original company restaurant; Bernie Marcus, Home Depot co-founder, stood behind a store display.

In the early 1970s, he was asked to document the activities of Volunteer Atlanta, which places volunteers in organizations like Boy’s Club, hospitals, and Traveler’s Aid. His work was to help promote their activities. In the 1980s, he documented the Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Association in supporting the Atlanta USO and local military veterans.

As an archive, his collection will be used for research for students, faculty, scholars, and the general public. The university can use any of his photos to promote Emory University, the Rose Library, and any organization directly connected to Emory. All others must get permission from Sherman.

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