Shacklett’s Photography Preserves Rutherford County History

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Bill Shacklett, one of the owners of Shacklett’s Photography, began working with his father, the late Richard “Dick” C. Shacklett, in the darkroom developing film when he was in the third grade. As a matter of fact, Bill admits that he was dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age of photography. He used film for years after digital came on the scene, then began using it to shoot business headshots and went on from there.

“Now, I won’t go back,” said Shacklett. “I am amazed at what we can do with digital photography. Instead of spending my day in a darkroom, I spend it in front of a computer. My dad taught me to stay adaptive.”

His father also taught him all about quality photography. Dick Shacklett started in the photography business by developing film at Leo Farrell’s Photography in 1935, before starting his own business at the ripe age of 16. During his lifetime, Dick captured some of the most significant local people like Uncle Dave; important events that occurred in Rutherford County, like the parade when General Douglas MacArthur came to Murfreesboro with his wife, Jean, who was raised in the city; and noteworthy places like Sky Harbor and Sewart Air Force Base.

Because Dick Shacklett was so interested in the history of the county and its people, negatives from many other photographer’s archives going further back in time accumulated in the basement of the family’s photo studio on the city square.

Some of Dick’s most noteworthy photography was wildlife photography, including his most famous shot of a trout capturing a fly in its mouth. This shot, called “Strike”, gained the attention of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who bought a copy and asked Dick to come to the White House to deliver it to him. In 1952, the shot won first place at the World Exposition of Photography in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Realizing the importance of their collection of film, the Shacklett’s have given it to the Tennessee Archives for research purposes. But, keeping the rights to the film, if you want a copy of any one of the photos, then you can buy it through the Shackletts.

Understanding the significance of these historical photographs, the Shacklett’s wrote a book called Then and Now with historian John Lodl. The book employs photos all the way back to the early 1800s showing what Murfreesboro looked like then, and what the same location looks like today. It can be purchased here.

“We record our lives through photographs,” said Bill Shacklett. “From photos, we can see how much things have changed, be it a few months or a few years…Being aware of the large amount of history that this studio has collected over the years makes us much more intentional in our work. We need to see people as they are.”

Over the years the Shacklett photography collection has been made part of other books about the history of the county, like The Daily News Journal’s now out of print “A Pictorial History of Rutherford County”. There have also been a number of exhibits of Dick Shacklett’s work. There was one at the end of last year in the Gallery at Washington Theater inside Patterson Community Center.

“We live in a very special place,” said Shacklett. “What makes it special is the people who live here, because they truly care about each other.” And that gives Murfreesboro a special energy that comes through the camera. Continuing in Dick’s footsteps, two more generations of Shackletts continue to capture the people, places and events that have and will continue to define this place.