Mississippi-born Photographer Oraien Catledge Has Passed Away

We are saddened to learn that UPM author and photographer Oraien E. Catledge of Atlanta died last week from complications related to congestive heart failure. He was 86.

Catledge was born in Sumner, Mississippi, in 1928, and came to his photographer’s vocation near the end of a long career as a social worker in the state of Mississippi, and as an advocate for the blind throughout the South.

In spite of his visual impairment Catledge began photographing the people of Cabbagetown, an Atlanta suburb, in 1980, around the time when the century-old Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill there closed. He became known to the people of Cabbagetown as the “Picture Man.”

In 2010 UPM was pleased to publish Oraien Catledge: Photographs, a celebration of a life's work in fine art photography. This collection included 70 black and white photographs many taken from his work in Cabbagetown. The publication of the book coincided with an exhibit of Catledge’s work at the Mississippi Museum of Art. The book was also honored in 2011 by the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters as the best photography work of the year.
Catledge in 2011

Although principally a photographer of people, Catledge’s sensuous, fastidious black and white work documents the landscapes and cityscapes of Mississippi and New Orleans, as well as imagining and recording the insular, working-class lives of the Cabbagetown neighborhood in center-city Atlanta -- the signal achievement upon which his considerable reputation rests.

As novelist Richard Ford states in his introduction to Photographs, Catledge’s remarkable photographs insist on the world as a movingly shared place. They seize their subjects with a palpable and seemingly inexhaustible relish, “as if the photographer has found each subject’s…face, expression, physical attitude and posture [so] full of dense complexity….” that the choice to make the photograph became an intoxicating one.

Below are some images from Photographs