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Sistagraphy founder Shelia Turner: Her camera brought people together

Photographer and founder of Sistagraphy Shelia Turner with some of her work. CREDIT: SUSAN ROSS
Photographer and founder of Sistagraphy Shelia Turner with some of her work. CREDIT: SUSAN ROSS

Twenty-five years ago, photographer Shelia Turner pulled together nine African-American women photographers for an exhibit at an Atlanta gallery.

At a reception that night, the women decided that they wanted to continue to work together.

As a result, Sistagraphy, an organization of African-American women photographers, was born.

Turner, who lived in Union City, was its founder.

“She was very much about helping people and inspiring people to think outside the box and try different things with their photography,” said close friend and Atlanta photojournalist Susan Ross.

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Turner, a noted photographer, social documentarian and educator,  died April 24 at age 56.  Professionally, she preferred to have her name in lowercase letters.

Family and friends will gather at 3 p.m. Sunday at the 10th Street entrance of Piedmont Park to celebrate Turner’s life. There will be remembrances and a balloon  release in her honor. People are asked to bring lavender or white balloons.

ExploreRead and sign the online guestbook for Shelia Turner

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Ross said Turner was one of the first photojournalists to document the growth and influence of the rap and blues scenes in Atlanta and captured an ever-changing city.

It was also important to her that women’s work be recognized along with their male peers.

Turner was interested in photography all of her life and got her first camera in high school, said sister Stephanie Adderley.

She  loved “bringing people together and photography allowed her that opportunity,” said Adderley.

Her photographs have been exhibited nationally and internationally,  including at Goethe-Institut Accra, Ghana; the Museum of Contemporary Art in  Atlanta; and the University of Delaware, Wilmington, Del.

Her work is also on permanent exhibition at the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta and at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

GoFundMe account has been set up to help with expenses.