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August 2011

Black Mountain Center for the Arts in Black Mountain, NC, Features Works by Carrie Wagner

Black Mountain Center for the Arts in Black Mountain, NC, will present the exhibit, Portraits of Uganda, featuring photographs by Carrie Wagner, on view in the Upper Gallery, from Aug. 5 through Sept. 2, 2011. A reception will be held on Aug. 5, from 6-8pm.

This exhibition features photographs from Wagner’s book, Village Wisdom: Immersed in Uganda, Inspired by Job, Changed for Life. Written, photographed and published by Wagner in 2010, fifteen years after she and her husband completed three years in Uganda with Habitat for Humanity International, the book tells an engaging and uplifting story that touches hearts of people from all walks of life.

Through evocative photographs and candid journal entries, Wagner contrasts the richness of culture with the challenges of poverty. She takes the reader and viewers through her transformational process of cultural adaptation. The original photography exhibit was a collection of photographs, taken from 1991-1994 in the village of Ibanda in western Uganda.  These portraits represent the Bakonzo tribe in western Uganda.

Bakonzo means ‘mountain people.’ They live on the steep slopes of the Rwenzori Mountains, often referred to as “Mountains of the Moon.” Wagner expanded the exhibit to include images from her return to the village, with her husband and two young sons, in 2009.

Wagner explains, “Some images remain etched in your heart forever. As I dusted off the 15-year-old negatives of our time living in Uganda, I realized the images are just as vivid in my mind as they were when I experienced the moments. The images are timeless. While they represent a place and time, as all photographs do, on a broader scale they speak about the incredible richness of life that co-exists with poverty environments. Our assumptions about impoverished conditions are challenged as we witness joy, community and simplicity in the lives of those who have not been consumed by the material world. Children laugh and play; people work hard to sustain life; they help each other build; they socialize at the markets; they eat together and tell stories for entertainment.”

“I remember my first experience aiming a camera at an African woman, deep in the mountains. As I gasped at the horror in her face, Job, our Ugandan host said, ‘She doesn’t want you to take her picture. People here believe that you are stealing their soul into the camera.’ I put the camera away and waited nearly a year before photographing people. Once I had built trust and personal relationships, the camera ceased to be an obstacle and I was able to capture the beauty of life in rural Uganda with integrity and authenticity,” adds Wagner.

“Many years later, I came to realize that the African woman was right. Making photographic portraits is taking a little piece of an individual’s soul. Authentic portraiture requires a level of trust. When people ‘let me in’ I am able to capture a sense of their spirit, whether it’s through their eyes, their actions or their expressions. I have not in fact stolen their soul; rather, they have given a piece of it. I am honored to present these portraits because I believe that the portraits honor the true givers.”

Wagner, a native of Charlotte, NC, and her husband served with Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) for 11 years in Uganda, South Africa, and Americus, Georgia. She has a BA in Environmental/Visual Design from North Carolina State University. She has practiced photography for 25 years, specializing professionally in portraiture since 2000. Wagner lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband and two sons.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Center at 828/669-0930 or visit (


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