Award-winning photographer aims to protect mountains, rivers
By: Terry Rader
North Carolina fine art photographer Carl Galie, who resides in Winston-Salem, is using his talent to help others fall in love with the mountains, rivers and beautiful places in nature that he hopes to see preserved. I attended one of Galie’s photography exhibits at the Elberson Fine Arts Center at Salem College in 2012 and found myself awestruck at the details and the light he had captured in his photographs. The large-scale pristine landscapes preserved on paper seemed surreal as if they were painted.
Galie isn’t focused on capturing beautiful nature scenes through the lens. He is also putting his work out there with powerful eye-opening environmental messages, especially with his mountaintop removal images. He said that from 1900 to 1957, 300 coalmines had dwindled to only two in his coalmine family hometown in Southwest Pennsylvania. When they shut down, and jobs began disappearing, Galie moved to Morganton, West Virginia. However, he started his exodus South when he left the mountains in West Virginia in 1986.
His move took him to Palm Beach, Florida to North Carolina to Louisiana and back to North Carolina in 1991 when he began his professional career as a nature stock photographer traveling back and forth from Pennsylvania to the tip of Florida. Galie said he had two goals at that time; to become a published photographer and to have his photography accepted as art. Today, he has accomplished both. Galie said the universe had lined things up for him to be in the right place at the right time.
In 1995, he received an Emerging Artists Award from the Winston-Salem Arts Council and the North Carolina Arts Council for funding his photographs of the Roanoke River for his first book, “Vision Quest, A Visual Journey Through North Carolina’s Lower Roanoke River Basin.” An exhibition of these prints was shown in 1999 at the Elberson Fine Arts Center at Salem College and donated to The Nature Conservancy in 2002 after being exhibited at colleges and private galleries across North Carolina and later used in several publications.
In 2007, Galie was awarded a Regional Artist Grant from the North Carolina Arts Council for his second book project, “175 Paces,” printed in 2008. Galie said he took each photograph in a span of 175 paces throughout all four seasons in Bertie County, North Carolina. The location belonged to his late friend, Gail Legget-Roberson, author of The Wake Weekly’s “Nature in a Nutshell” column. Mirroring Henry David Thoreau, she built a small pre-fab cabin as a private escape for her writing. Galie said Roberson invited him to visit and introduced him to the landowners. Without her help, he would have never found the vistas for the photographs in his book, “Vision Quest.” Galie said the cabin expressed simplicity with beauty everywhere, and that this second book was more personal for him because it contained writings of being a young boy growing up on a pond in a coalmining town. Because of the direction in the economy in 2009, book sales were not as brisk, and he still has copies. However, he has come a long way.
“I’ve never had everything I wanted, but I’ve always had everything I needed,” Galie said.
Galie said his 20-year conservation career happened by accident with his first book and allowed him to meet and work with several conservation groups including Roanoke River Partners and the New River Conservancy, where he continues to volunteer. He was awarded the first Art For Conservation Grant in August 2010 for his project, “Lost on the Road to Oblivion, The Vanishing Beauty of Coal Country.” Galie collaborated with North Carolina poet laureate Joseph Bathanti, who submitted 13 poems for this project. “I thought my work with mountaintop removal was over, but now, everything we worked for and all we thought we had achieved is backsliding,” Galie said. “It is still an issue.”
In 2011, he received a Blessings Program Foundation Grant along with the Roosevelt-Ashe Conservation Award for journalism in 2014 for his work on mountaintop removal and the aftermath that follows. Galie’s story in pictures paints the tainted truth hidden in coalmining towns much like the one he grew up in.
Aside from accepting invitations to exhibit, Galie doesn’t have any new projects in the works at this writing. Maybe it’s time for him to pull out those copies of his second book, “175 Paces” and share his powerful messages that might be more readily received today. They could become important documentation for future generations who might not get to see these pristine places in real life.
To view Galie’s work, visit his website. His books are available online and on his Facebook and Instagram pages. To see his photos of the Colorado River and mountaintop removal in Kentucky, visit the North American Nature Photography Association website.
TERRY RADER is a freelance writer/editorial/content/copy, poet and songwriter, part-time co-op community outreach coordinator and wellness clerk at Deep Roots Market, certified herbalist and flower essences practitioner and pet/house sitter, formerly an ad agency creative director, copywriter, branding strategist and Earth Harmony columnist, a storyteller on a mission to raise awareness for creative people, grassroots, sustainability, holistic wellness and underground happenings in our community.