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In Memoriam: Shel Hershorn, Photojournalist

Sept. 20, 2011

Portrait of Shel Hershorn by Bob Eckhardt. Robert C. Eckhardt papers.Portrait of Shel Hershorn by Bob Eckhardt. Robert C. Eckhardt papers.

AUSTIN, Tx. – The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin mourns the death of photojournalist Herbert Sheldon "Shel" Hershorn. Hershorn, whose collection is part of the Briscoe Center News Media Archives, died on September 17, 2011.

Shel Hershorn was born in Denver, Colorado, and learned photography while serving in the U.S. Navy. He got his first newspaper job with the Casper, Wyoming Tribune Herald, and moved to Dallas, Texas, in 1954 to work for the Dallas Time Herald and United Press International. In 1956, he became a contract photographer for Black Star photo agency.

"News: that's what turns me on," said Hershorn in 1968. "It's there and there's no going back later. You're taking part in history; you're recording it on one small way."

"I am saddened by Shel Hershorn's passing," said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. "An outstanding photojournalist, Shel documented a number of significant events in Texas during the 1950s and 1960s. He generously donated his archives to the Briscoe Center in the mid-1990s, and he continued to be one of the Center's ambassadors until his death."

Hershorn was based in Dallas for most of his career as a photojournalist, and much of his collection has Texas subjects, ranging from industry to fashion to sports to politics. Some of his most memorable photos included images of Sam Rayburn's funeral and Lee Harvey Oswald in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination. Hershorn's coverage of Charles Whitman's shootings on the University of Texas campus include the iconic image of the UT tower viewed through bullet-shattered glass, which was the cover of Life magazine in 1966.

Slideshow of images from the Shel Hershorn Collection

"I think Shel Hersorn is probably the finest all-around photographer I ever knew," UPI bureau manager Charles McCarty said of his former employee in 1968. "I compare him with a good golfer – he didn't make any bad shots. … It doesn't take a great photographer to shoot a train wreck, but Shel can go out and come away so quickly with a picture that tells the story."

Hershorn's photos appeared in Life, Fortune, Newsweek, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, Saturday Evening Post, and Playboy, among other publications. His work was also the subject of two commissioned exhibits for the Amon Carter Museum in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Hershorn eventually left photojournalism to live a quieter life in Gallina, New Mexico. "I was spending more time shooting for the advertising side of the business than the journalism side and not liking it," he said in 1989. "So I packed up my show, bought a van and a pony, and hit the highway, stopping along the way at roadside shopping centers and small-town neighborhoods to snap kids sitting on top of my horse."

The Shel Hershorn Photograph Collection includes papers, prints, contact sheets, transparencies, and negatives from the entirety of Hershorn's photojournalism career.

For more information, contact Alison Beck, al.beck@austin.utexas.edu, (512) 495-4556.

Related sites:

Briscoe Center's News Media History Collections

A Guide to the Shel Hershorn Photograph Collection at the Briscoe Center for American History
 

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