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Photography in Charlotte

By Daniel Coston

Coston is a music writer and photographer who has lived in Charlotte since 1983. He has written several books about North Carolina Music including North Carolina Musicians: Photographs and Conversations, There Was a Time: Rock & Roll During the 1960s in Charlotte and North Carolina, and Home of the Blues: A History of the Double Door Inn.

Photography came to Charlotte in the late 1800s, as photographers traveled south to document the towns and communities that were beginning to grow. By 1902, photographers had begun to capture images of the Victorian homes that made up much of the downtown area. A comparison of these photos to today’s downtown Charlotte illustrates how much the city has grown and changed over the last century.

By mid-century, many of the city’s top photographers worked for the city’s two daily newspapers. The Charlotte Observer, which published in the morning, and the Charlotte News, which published in the afternoon. For years, Jeep Hunter was the best-known photographer at the Charlotte News. Hunter joined the Charlotte News in 1948. His accolades included the award for Southern Photographer Of The Year in 1956, and sharing the same honor with another photographer in 1962. He was also recognized as Kent State Photographer of the Year in 1961, and won various other awards during his long career, including induction into the North Carolina Journalism Hall Of Fame.

On the Observer side, Don Sturkey photographed for the paper for 35 years, beginning in 1955. His photos in 1957 of Dorothy Counts integrating Harding High School gained nationwide attention, and continue to shine a revealing light on race relations during that turbulent time. Sturkey is also in the North Carolina Journalism Hall Of Fame. Other Observer photographers to gain nationwide attention for their work include Bruce Roberts, who won Southern Photographer Of The Year in 1958, and current staff photographers Jeff Siner and Todd Sumlin.

In 1973, the Light Factory opened its doors in Charlotte. The organization became one of only four museums in the country that was dedicated to photography and film. In 2013, the Light Factory was forced to close, but a group of local volunteers worked to re-open it the following year. The Light Factory is once again spotlighting the photography of local and national artists, and teaching classes for those who wish to learn more about photography.

In 2016, Charlotte has a diverse array of photographers, both young and old. Calvin Ferguson, Mitchell Kearney, Deborah Triplett, Carolyn DeMerritt, Byron Baldwin, Dianna Augustine, Chris Edwards, Sean Busher, Curtis Wilson, Jeff Cravotta, Sonia Handelmann Meyer, and many others ensure that Charlotte will be well-documented for many years to come. 

Tags:   Art  |   Photography  |   Tourism

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