With the snap of a shutter, Jean Hammons stopped time and captured life in Limestone County in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s with her iconic black and white photographs. 

A woman enjoying her sunflowers.

A young girl playing in the front yard of a sharecropper’s house. 

Customers walking by the Coca-Cola and Pepsi signs at Log Cabin Grocery.

A graduate of Tanner High School, Hammons worked at Redstone Arsenal as a member of the Von Braun team, but her passion was music and art. She moved to New York in 1957, where she worked as the creative music director for Oak Publications and reviewed books for Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and The Supremes. 

She won awards in book design, art direction and photography.

Hammons started a private school for actors and singers and became the voice and acting coach for stars on “All My Children,” Broadway and the movies. She performed in the folk trio “The All Night Singers” and toured many cities. 

The late artist never forgot Athens and Limestone County. On her visits home, she used her camera to save moments in time that drew her interest — from farming, to lunch at a diner, to people gathering on a stoop. 

In 2018, the Hammons family approached High Cotton Arts photographer Randall Lewter about making prints from old negatives they discovered. Lewter, who enjoys photographing historic sites and old buildings, agreed to not only curate and make prints but also create an exhibit called “Eye on The South” at High Cotton Arts to share Hammons’ work with the community. 

Lewter and Athens Arts League will host a reception for the exhibit from 6-8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16.

The public is invited to learn more about Hammons and see her images of Limestone County places and people now gone.

The exhibit will be on display at High Cotton through Sept. 7. Lewter is selling copies of the prints and donating part of the proceeds to Athens Arts League for the operation of High Cotton Arts. 

Athens Arts League operates High Cotton Arts, a non-profit art incubator in downtown Athens that provides affordable studio space for artists, art classes and cultural events.


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