Oraien Catledge, 1928-2015


Yesterday morning, we saw a mention of Oraien Catledge's passing, which has since been confirmed, and the tributes are beginning to pour in. Chad Radford, who wrote a great feature about Catledge in 2009, wrote yesterday:

"Sad news came yesterday when word spread that photographer Oraien Catledge had died. Catledge was best known for photographing Cabbagetown in the late 1970s and early ’80s, and the descendants of the Appalachian workforce once employed by the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill. Catledge died from complications related to congestive heart failure on the morning of Tuesday, January 27. He was 86 years old.

An Oxford, Miss. native, Catledge was born in 1928. He moved to Atlanta in 1969 while working as a regional consultant for the American Association for the Blind. After learning about Cabbagetown while watching a local news story, he spent most of his weekends there over a period of almost 20 years."
Howard Pousner writes over on ajc.com that "the Atlanta Journal-Constitution will publish an obituary in coming days" while republishing a piece from 1992 (from Mr. Pousner) & 2006 (from Kirsten Tagami, excerpted below).

"Catledge, 77, spent nearly every weekend for two decades photographing residents of the tiny neighborhood in the southeast corner of downtown Atlanta. Years ago, folks from Appalachia and rural Georgia streamed in to work at the looming, red-brick Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill. They lived in tidy wooden cottages they rented from the company. Outsiders called them “lint-heads” for the cotton that clung to their hair, and they clung together like one huge clan.

But when the mill closed suddenly in 1974, residents found themselves scrambling to find new jobs. Many families fell into poverty. By 1980, the community was dotted with run-down houses, some boarded up and abandoned. A few urban pioneers were moving in to renovate quaint old homes, and developers were eager to transform the area so close to downtown jobs.

Catledge, who lives in suburban DeKalb County, first learned about Cabbagetown in 1980, when the local evening news spotlighted an effort by some longtime residents to resist the incursion by newcomers. He was fascinated. That weekend, Catledge slung one of his Leica cameras around his neck, drove his Ford station wagon to Cabbagetown and began documenting the changing community."
There have been quite a few posts here on ACP Now about Catledge's work & events surrounding his exhibitions and publications over the years. One can only hope that in his passing, new people will be drawn to discover his great work.

And thanks to Tony at Lumiere for the heads-up on these three videos from Terminus Films, featuring vintage looks at Cabbagetown. Especially interesting how Catledge describes a particular expression of community life that's more or less disappeared.

[Photo at the top of the post via Opal Gallery]

One Response to “Oraien Catledge, 1928-2015”

  1. Tony Casadonte Says:

    Michael, thanks for posting and sharing the connections. Oraien was a prince of a man, and will be missed by all that had the good fortune to know him. (Also you might want to add a link to Terminus Films – they produced a nice piece on Oraien in 2012.)

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