Cabbagetown photographer Oraien Catledge, 1928-2015

Sad news came yesterday when word spread that photographer Oraien Catledge had died.


  • Joeff Davis
  • ORAIEN CATLEDGE: The photographer holds up one of his images of Cabbagetown as he knew it more than 20 years ago.

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.

At the time of his death, Catledge had not been actively shooting photography for several years. However, in the twilight of his life, he still enjoyed looking at his work, and was able to look at his photos and recall the subject matter and circumstances in precise detail. “The value of Catledge’s photography was established when he completed his body of his work — Cabbagetown,” says attorney Mark Baker, who oversaw Catledge’s affairs later in life. “He sympathetically and empathetically captured a time in Atlanta’s history that saw a transition from the mill work ethic to what you might now call the ‘bourgeoisification’ of Cabbagetown. He documented the indigenous people, many of whom had lost their livelihood when the mill shut down, but they retained a strong sense of community and family,” Baker adds. “He never judged these people, who were often in dire circumstances, and he documented this transitional period with compassion and a nonjudgmental flair.”

Catledge’s photos are chronicled in two books. The first, Cabbagetown: Photographs by Oraien E. Catledge, published by the University of Texas Press in 1985. In 2010, University Press of Mississippi published <a href=”http://clatl.com/freshloaf/archives/2010/10/19/oraien-catledge-photographs-looks-beyond-cabbagetown” ” target=”_blank”>Oraien Catledge: Photographs.

Oraien is survived by his wife Sue, his brother Charles, his son Philip, and three grandchildren.

Read more about Catledge in CL’s feature story, <a href=”http://clatl.com/atlanta/photographer-oraien-catledge-remembers-cabbagetown/Content?oid=1284964” ” target=”_blank” >”Photographer Oraien Catledge remembers Cabbagetown” from Nov. 23, 2009.