Emory library acquires 5,000 Polaroids from ‘Atlanta’s Andy Warhol’

Photos taken by Jan Arge
Photos taken by Jan Arge

Emory University has acquired the collection of an artist and photographer who spent four decades capturing Atlanta’s LGBTQ communities.

The Jon Arge collection includes more than 5,000 Polaroid photographs that chronicle life at house parties, nightclubs, benefits such as Wigwood and WigOut, and scenes from the Atlanta-based public access cable TV program, "American Music Show." The acquisition also includes artwork, event files, printed material and a journal.

The photographs span 1972 to 2012, with the bulk taken from 1992 to 2008. Arge started taking Polaroids and labeling to help him remember people's names, according to Emory's website.

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“I never knew what I was doing, I just knew that I had to do it,” Arge said. “At the end I was shocked by how much work there was.”

Randy Gue, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library's curator of modern political and historical collections, considers Arge "Atlanta's Andy Warhol."

“These one-of-a-kind instant photos capture the inside story of a community and an era that isn’t well documented,” Gue said in a statement.

Arge’s art has been exhibited at Atlanta galleries and institutions, including Kai Lin Art, 800 East and the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center. His corporate commissions have included the Coca-Cola Company, IBM and Turner Broadcasting.

The Rose Library collects and preserves distinctive collections, such as the 60-year-old letter that inspired Jack Kerouac's novel, "On the Road," Harper Lee letters and Flannery O'Conner papers. The library is free and open to the public, so anyone can come in and view Arge's collections.

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