Decaturish photographer receives Award of Excellence from Atlanta Press ClubElaine Vaughn holds a copy of a photograph of the Shermantown community’s semi-pro baseball team, the “Hard Rocks.” Her father Charlie Stewart is 2nd from right on the first row. Rev. William Woodson Morris, Sr. the only living member is at the end of the row to Stewart’s left. The date of the photo is possibly 1954. The team was organized in 1946. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Decatur, GA — Decaturish and Tucker Observer photographer Dean Hesse has received an Award of Excellence from the Atlanta Press Club in the photo essay category.
The award was given to Hesse’s photo essay about Shermantown, the historic Black neighborhood on the South side of downtown Stone Mountain.
“I’m very proud to have received the Atlanta Press Club’s Photo Essay Award of Excellence,” Hesse said. “‘There’s a lot of love in the community of Shermantown’ was a project I wanted to do for a long time. When I pitched it to Dan for Tucker Observer, he was all in. It wouldn’t have happened without his support. Most importantly, I thank the wonderful people of Shermantown who gave their time and shared their stories. They are family to me. It’s a great honor to work alongside such a talented team of journalists at Decaturish and Tucker Observer, and it makes me better every day at what I do.”
“There’s a lot of love in the community of Shermantown” is about a tight-knit, giving community that is important to the history of Stone Mountain, Hesse said. He spent about a month working on the project, getting to know the area and those who live there.
“The people I interviewed lived through Jim Crow, segregation and the Klan marching down their streets in front of their homes, and people need to hear that,” Hesse said.
Hesse explained the project to Shermantown residents he knew, and they all agreed to participate.
“Beverly Jones, who I’ve known for years and is now the mayor of Stone Mountain, was an immense help. She agreed to come out with me one day and introduced me to a few people I hadn’t previously met and helped me locate where the Klan held their rallies and pointed out some other places,” he said.
He also worked with Mary Beth Reed, the president of New South Associates and president of Stone Mountain Historical Society, to learn about the historical context of Shermantown.
“I went out several days alone to make photos,” Hesse said. “I have been welcomed for years to events in Shermantown, but never dug into the community’s history. So when I had the opportunity with the launch of Tucker Observer to do that, I felt it was the right time, even though I felt limited by the ongoing pandemic.”
Editor and Publisher Dan Whisenhunt said longtime readers of Decaturish and Tucker Observer won’t be surprised by the news of Hesse’s award.
“Dean is easily one of the best news photographers in the Atlanta area,” Whisenhunt said. “The thing I appreciate most about Dean, other than his incredible eye, is his work ethic and professionalism. He never phones anything in. He loves what he does and it shows. We could not be prouder of him.”
Here are a few highlights from the photo essay:
Here’s a look at some more noteworthy work from Hesse:
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