“My first ‘f8 and be there’ opportunity was when I saw smoke from a fire on the horizon, grabbed my camera, and was first on the scene at a major gasoline fire in Doraville [Georgia] in 1972.” -Ron Sherman
Ron Sherman has had many, many f/8-and-be-there-moments in his 50-plus year career as an Atlanta based photojournalist. It is particularly apt that he is today’s On Photography subject with the passing of Hank Aaron, who broke Babe Ruth’s home run record on April 8, 1974, at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium.
Ron not only captured Hammerin’ Hank looking as #715 was heading into the stands, he also captured the image of Aaron rounding second base flanked by two teenage boys, Britt Gaston and Cliff Courtenay. The only photo of them running with and patting Aaron on the back was taken by Ron Sherman. The video of them with Aaron is at 0:49 in the video below.
Hank Aaron breaks Babe Ruth home run record
Recalling his famous photo
Ron tells how his iconic picture (opening photo, top row, second from far right) came to be. “On April 8, 1974, on a freelance assignment for United Press International, I was one of more than a hundred photographers at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium that night when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run to break Babe Ruth’s record. From my position in the field level photo box along the third-base line, I made a series of images as he rounded second base and was joined by a pair of teenagers.”
Ron had no idea what he had captured, saying, “It was one of 544 images I made that night, and, in those pre-digital days, I didn’t know it was special until I saw it in the darkroom after the game. Other photographers had better angles of Aaron’s home run swing, but it was my photograph (sent around the world by UPI) that captures the special celebration of his historical accomplishment.”
A few days later United Press International called Ron and asked him for the negative so they could make prints for the office. Ron’s name was never attached to the original photo, only his initials on the print that UPI had transmitted.
UPI’s archive was acquired by Bettman Archives who was in turn acquired by Corbis. Ron tracked his negative down finding that Corbis did have it. After some negotiation, Corbis returned it to him. He called them back and asked if there had been any licenses granted for the image during the 10 years they held it. Indeed they had made and sold prints. The call resulted in Ron receiving a “nice-sized check.”
Baseball Hall of Fame
Later, a photographer named Jay Kaufman was in Cooperstown touring the Baseball Hall of Fame. He saw a huge photograph he remembered. He asked Ron if he had given permission for the Hall to display his photo. Ron called the archivist at the Hall asking where the photo came from. The archivist said it had a stamp on the back that said “Corbis.” The archivist told Ron that the enlargement was really grainy as it had been made from a print.
Ron arranged to have a new print made from his original negative. The Baseball Hall of Fame added a plaque giving Ron credit and displayed his copyright notice. Credit received, finally after 40 years.
Assignments and stock
Ron Sherman worked on assignments for major magazines — Time, Newsweek, Forges, US News and Business Week, He has photographed notables like Coretta Scott King, Atlanta mayor, congressman and ambassador Andrew Young and former President Jimmy Carter. Corporate clients included IBM, Coca-Cola, Georgia Power, AT&T and The Southern Company.
Ron has a thriving stock photography business that centers around Atlanta and historic photos from the 1970s through 1990. Atlanta’s Emory University acquired 747 silver gelatin prints of southern politics, business and culture.
Ron and his wife live in Roswell, Georgia where he continues to scan his library of half a million photographs.
Opening photo top row, L-R: Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter in Plains, GA 1976, Mayor Maynard Jackson, Hank Arron rounding 2nd base during his record-breaking 715th home run, Hank Aaron hitting the homer. Bottom row L-R: 1996 Atlanta Olympic Stadium, Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks with Coretta Scott King.
Read more about influential photographers in On Photography.