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  • Sincerely, Southern

Frank Fortune: The artist who captured history

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

By: Isabella Kicklighter, Multimedia Editor

[STATESBORO] The crowd is roaring with excitement. The stands are as tall as pine trees, filled with fans dressed in blue. The football players are overwhelmed with emotion, joy reeling through their veins as they realize all their hard work has paid off. They rush to their coach, hoist him into the air to celebrate a historic win for The Eagles. Among the roar of cheers, the faintest shutter of a camera captures a moment in time that would tell a thousand stories from that eventful day.

Frank Fortune was the man behind the lens who captured Georgia Southern Football’s historic championship win in 1985.

Fortune captured this shot of Erk Russell being lifted by his team after a Georgia Southern win.

Fortune is the skilled photographer responsible for capturing every major moment in the history of Georgia Southern University from 1981 until 2009. From championships and national television debuts to changing from “college” to “university”, he was there for it all.

He attended Georgia Southern University for two years before going off to finish his schooling at The University of Georgia. During his time in school, he worked as a student photographer, honing his skills, capturing moments and developing photos that would be admired for years to come.

In 1982 he was hired by Georgia Southern public relations director, Ric Mandes, to work for the marketing department.

“I was able to transfer him from a student job to a full time photographer,” said Mandes.

“The thing that always impressed me was his natural talent and eye for the drama of life," said Mandes.

Becoming a full time employee straight out of college is no easy accomplishment. To then hold that position for almost 30 years is another feat on its own. Offering up his skills at Georgia Southern, Fortune successfully created a reputable reputation with everyone he met.

'Born with it'

Everyone who has the opportunity to connect with Fortune shares the same feelings of awe for his work and nature.

Phillip Oliver, former Statesboro Herald journalist and retired teacher at Southeast-Bulloch High School, has known Fortune for almost 30 years. Oliver regarded him as, “The best photographer in the low-country.”

During his time as a journalist, Oliver got to know Fortune well, explaining that he was always everywhere getting the shot. You could find Fortune at sporting events and even local ceremonies. No matter what, he was going to get the shot.

Credit: Allen E. Paulson Stadium Slide #5, Frank Fortune Photographic Slides, Special Collections at Zach S. Henderson Library, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia.

“As we say in the business, he’s got a great eye, something you just can’t teach," said Oliver. "He was born with it."

Oliver explained his fondest memories with Fortune include watching him at work during Georgia Southern’s greatest sporting events.

“It was like watching an artist in action,” said Oliver.

Oliver went on to add that through his point of view, what made Fortune so successful was his ability to be humble and eager.

“He constantly honed his skills no matter what,” said Oliver.

Oliver advised to never be afraid to grow with your craft especially when it comes to developing technologies.

Today’s Fortune

Fortune is still very active in the Georgia Southern community today, providing his photography skills to the area with his business ‘The Fortune Image’ which focuses on photography in an array of areas like magazine, sports, commercial, and architecture.

Just before he officially left work at Georgia Southern in 2008, Fortune won the National Photographer of the Year award, presented to him by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). He used his new title to travel the country and speak to audiences in places like Chicago and Minneapolis about his craft.

He even went on to have his work published in the Times Magazine but explains his greatest pride in being a photographer, “Experiencing all the historic moments, I was there,” said Fortune. “It was my time.”

Credit: Georgia Southern University School Eagle, Slide #1, Frank Fortune Photographic Slides, Special Collections at Zach S. Henderson Library, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia.

Fortune explained that his success did not come overnight. When asked what he would recommend most to young photographers who hope to perfect their craft this was his reply, “Experience is key,” said Fortune. “Work on things you like. Practice, and practice again. Then make a portfolio of your work. Submit it to a website.”

Fortune concludes his advice for all photographers from novice to advanced with,

“Don’t be afraid to change for your photography,” said Fortune. “Always make something.”

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