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HomeDanceMy Atlanta: The photographs of Charlie McCullers chronicle a metropolis's iconic aspirations

My Atlanta: The photographs of Charlie McCullers chronicle a metropolis’s iconic aspirations

Editor’s observe: Our collection, “My Atlanta,” turns the highlight on photographers, utilizing their photographs and supporting textual content for instance how dwelling in Atlanta has impressed their careers and lives. Right this moment, we characteristic the work of Charlie McCullers.

McCullers has used Atlanta as a house base for his pictures for 40 years, with an eclectic portfolio that ranges from sports activities to ballet (he was the official Atlanta Ballet photographer for 20 years) to business initiatives (equivalent to photographing John Madden for a mattress firm). He graduated from the College of Georgia with a level in fantastic arts, and lately obtained a grasp of fantastic arts from the Savannah Faculty of Artwork and Design. 

He has centered lately on a partnership with fellow photographer Cecilia Montalvo to chronicle the barrier islands off the coasts of Georgia and Florida. The Ebenezer Creek collection by McCullers and Montalvo — “Locations Bear in mind What Individuals Neglect” — is a part of the “The Nature of Actuality” exhibit at Spalding Nix Advantageous Artwork by means of November 11.


These photographs are from a time after I was closest to town of Atlanta. It was in the course of the mid-Nineties to the early 2000s. A lot of the work I’ve achieved since then has taken me away from town. From the Olympics to the sporting occasions to the museum occasions, it was a good time for me personally to be concerned within the metropolis.

Aspirations are key. Accomplishments are the way you measure these aspirations. At the moment, Atlanta was bursting onto the scene with the Olympics. Having kids rising up, and having a profession that was in full bloom, appeared to coincide with what town was experiencing. 

In recent times, McCullers has turned his focus to the barrier islands off the coasts of Georgia and Florida. (Picture by Drew Perlmutter/Savannah Faculty of Artwork and Design)

When the ballet approached me for his or her seventy fifth season anniversary to be their photographer, I’d by no means been to a ballet earlier than in my life. Once I noticed my first present, I used to be fully taken by it. I turned so connected to the dancers when it comes to their strategy to expressing their feelings. They had been doing bodily what I used to be attempting to do visually. 

To this present day, after working with Atlanta Ballet for over 20 years, I pleasure myself in not understanding the fundamentals of ballet. I purposefully tried to not be taught that a part of it as a result of I wished to deliver to the ballet one thing that wasn’t corralled and based mostly on approach. I by no means spoke in dance phrases as a result of I wasn’t certified to do this. I spoke in emotional phrases, human phrases. That related with the dancers. We had a terrific rapport. 

The dancers had been motivated by the uncertainty of that second, the uncertainty of the gang that will present up. All they’d as a continuing was “the now.” And the employment of “the now” within the arts is one thing that we might all aspire to. Simply to take this elastic second and someway interpret it. Nobody does it like a dancer.  And in a confined area. It completely lives within the second and dies within the second. By no means to be re-created. 

In my private work, I’ve tried to take that doctrine on. To create work that solely lives within the second. It’s tougher to do with a medium the place you mainly hold it on the wall and it’s a frozen second in time. Which is the antithesis of a dancer’s growth of the second. However it’s comparable since you’re centered on “the now.” There’s no analyzing what simply occurred or worrying about what’s about to occur. It’s simply the expression of that second.

Within the late 70s, I went to the Armand Hammer exhibition on the Excessive. That’s after I realized I wished to be a photographer. My purpose on the time, in my easy little over-achieving thoughts, was to have a picture that will be equal to the imagery that was being proven within the museum. And in my thoughts, I stated, “I need to have an enormous {photograph} on the Excessive Museum.”

As a part of the Sir Elton John challenge, when the elevators opened there was a photograph of Elton that I took and on the time, it was the most important picture the Excessive had ever displayed inside their constructing. There was some type of full circle analogy for me in that second. Not solely was I working with the one that created the soundtrack to my life rising up, however I had realized that dream from after I was a 20-year-old child. That was particular.

Atlanta has been extremely nurturing to me and my pictures. From the primary photographs, with my Cub Scout digicam at “The Atlanta Airport,” to a 40-plus yr business pictures profession, to a latest MFA matriculation at Savannah Faculty of Artwork — it’s been rewarding past phrases. The challenge “My Atlanta” is not possible to understand in methods that may by no means be adequately expressed. However, maybe, there may be valor within the try. That is my Atlanta.


Charlie McCullers: Andrew Young

Andrew Younger, groundbreaking Centennial Olympic Stadium, 7/13/1993.

This picture will all the time resonate for me as a visible preamble for absolutely the act of neighborhood that will quickly manifest, not solely within the metropolis of Atlanta, however all the state of Georgia. Reverend Younger raised his palms with a symbolic gesture of constructive vitality that felt each religious and elegant. On that sizzling, breathless, groundbreaking day in July 1993, he impressed this metropolis to rise to the event and challenged the residents of Atlanta to perform the seemingly not possible feat of internet hosting the 1996 Olympics. 


Charlie McCullers: Olympic Stadium

Centennial Olympic Stadium, Observe and Subject Finals, 9/23/1996.

Perched excessive within the stadium, alone, with my cameras, I felt I used to be the place I belonged. Minutes later, Michael Johnson would set the world report for the 200-meter gold medal race, and I had the privilege of bearing witness to the feat; considered one of many reminiscences from that summer time in 1996. By no means earlier than have I felt as related to Atlanta in such a significant manner. 4 days later, a bomb would detonate in Centennial Park. To some extent, I misplaced a bit of my innocence and naivete that day. I look again on this optimistic, panoramic view of the Atlanta skyline and think about the results that had been quickly to observe. A metropolis that will, metaphorically, rise once more from the ashes of hate.


Charlie McCullers: Evander Holyfield

Evander Holyfield, World Heavyweight Championship title struggle, the Omni, 10/25/1990.

Evander Holyfield gave town of Atlanta an unprecedented reward by holding his first title protection on the Omni in 1990. Evander gave me a singular alternative to doc the occasion with limitless entry earlier than, throughout and after the struggle. To say the expertise was surreal is a gross understatement. This picture will all the time symbolize that visceral expertise for me. A couple of years later, Evander invited me to his dwelling to make a portrait. The 2 of us spent all the day strolling his property, speaking of his life and his profession. When he spoke of the Mike Tyson struggle he abruptly turned animated and expressive, recalling each minute element of the ultimate spherical; instinctively bobbing and weaving with the telling. I assumed, in that second, how splendidly unusual the entire story was — and the way lucky I used to be to listen to it.


Charlie McCullers: David Justice

David Justice, World Championship Trophy, Braves clubhouse, 10/28/1995.

Within the midst of a chaotic clubhouse celebration, David Justice tugged at my sleeve and instructed me to observe him. What occurred subsequent endeared me to Atlanta Braves baseball in a manner that felt predestined. Behind a closed door to the gear room was the trophy that was simply carried from the sphere. David wished a photograph, as did Ted Turner, John Schuerholz and Stan Kasten. My digicam was soaked in champagne and the flash was firing erratically, however I bought the shot — all of them. I made 1000’s of photographs of Braves baseball between 1990 and 2010, however none of them have extra inherent company than this one.


Charlie McCullers: Nadia Mara

Nadia Mara, Fox Theatre, Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker, December 2003.

For greater than 20 years I had the pleasure of serving because the principal photographer for Atlanta Ballet. The second illustrated above is each distinctive and unusual — a lot the best way dance manifests itself each time it’s introduced. Standing alongside dancers within the wings of a stage is each intimidating and exhilarating. So many customs, beliefs and superstitions — you don’t need to exert any affect in any respect. You need to be invisible, however conscious. Felt, however by no means intrusive. This photographic choreography is all the time a problem however extremely rewarding when completed. For me, this unremarkable second is an integral a part of the method the place belief is earned and relationships are fashioned. 


Charlie McCullers: Tara Lee

Tara Lee, Fox Theatre dressing room, “Madama Butterfly,” 2002.

I’ve all the time thought-about the dressing room as the primary efficiency of the night the place the performer encounters their hardest critic: themselves. This self-appraisal is relentless and brutally sincere — generally past motive, all the time (seemingly) justified. To bear witness to this personal evaluation requires a sure diploma of diplomacy, however by no means on the expense of capturing an sincere picture. I’m continually amazed on the braveness these dancers exhibit; by no means is there any refuge, even within the privateness of their private area. 


Sir Elton John in his residence, proven on the Excessive Museum of Artwork, January 2001.

I keep in mind that my knees buckled just a little bit when the elevator doorways opened and I noticed the entry to the “Refrain of Mild” exhibition on the Excessive Museum of Artwork in 2001. Moments like that may really take your breath away. If ever my photographic aspirations had been realized in a single place, this needed to be it. My portrait of Sir Elton John, along with his pictures assortment, featured within the Excessive Museum, in Atlanta!



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