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Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition Announces Winners for the 19th Annual Awards Ceremony

By Harley Nefe

Many attendees came together over the weekend to enjoy a reception and to celebrate artists from around the area at this year’s Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition, where winners were announced for the 19th annual awards ceremony.

Presented by AppState University Recreation, The Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, and Virtual Blue Ridge, “the AMPC is designed to celebrate the people, places, and pursuits that capture the unique mountain character of the Southern Appalachians – a place that many of us call home,” said Rich Campbell, Associate Director of University Recreation, at the event.

“We were thrilled to announce and celebrate the award winning images and photographers on Saturday, April 2 at a special awards ceremony held at the Turchin Center as a part of the Banff Film Festival weekend,” said Campbell, who has worked with the competition for the past 19 years.

“It has grown into one of the most prestigious photography competitions in the region,” he described. “This year, we received over 850 submissions – an impressive number.”

The AMPC had selected 48 finalists from over 800 entries previously, and Jurors Jule Rae Powers and Byron Tenesaca-Guaman chose award winning images from the 48 finalist images that are on display at the Turchin Center now through June 4, 2022.

Julie Rae Powers received their MFA in Photography from The Ohio State University and their BFA in Photography from James Madison University. Recently, Julie Rae started Soft Lightning Studio, a photography publishing platform dedicated to broadening space in the photo world for image makers who are persons of color, queer, women, and others. Their work has focused on family history, coal, Appalachia, the queer “female” gaze, the butch body and queer chosen families. Julie Rae also works as an instructional designer.

Byron Tenesaca-Guaman is a visual artist and bilingual educator residing in Western North Carolina. Born in an ancestral Indigenous community in the Andes Mountain region of Ecuador to a family of basket weavers and agriculturists, Byron’s early years were spent learning the reciprocity system that exists between humans and the mountains. A certified K-12 art instructor, Byron currently serves the mountain community as the visual arts teacher at Johnston Elementary School. His artworks, in various media, document, layer and weave the memories, culture, and history of the Andean and Appalachian Mountain regions together.

“This reception was really intended to celebrate all of the photographers and the jurors,” Campbell said. “Friends and guests, this celebration was a way to thank each of you and honor you, because without you taking the time to share your talents with us, we wouldn’t have a competition. Thank you so much.”

Campbell shared that the AMPC is made possible with the incredible support of the Turchin Center, and the online presence is maintained flawlessly by Virtual Blue Ridge. The AMPC is sponsored exclusively by the Mast General Store who generously provided gift cards for all the category award winners for this competition. 

The AMPC also received support from Bistro Roca, Peabody’s Wine & Beer, Stick Boy Bread Co., Appalachian Voices, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, and Footsloggers.

The 19th Annual Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition finalist images can be viewed here: https://www.appmtnphotocomp.org/galleries/19th-annual-finalists/ 

The award categories and winners are as follows:

Special Jury Award

Immoral by Isabelle Vance

Early to Rise by Joseph Seevers

Dichotomous Dolly by William Richard Major

Sid and McKenna by Hannah Clark

People’s Choice Award 

The Color of Summer by Rhonda Kingen

Ecological Footprint 

Jug Factory Road by Zane Logan

Adventure Category

Fly Fishing the Davidson River by Madison Kay

Culture Category 

Sequoyah Nuclear Plant by Hannah Clark

Flora Fauna Category 

Backyard Clover by Maggie Flanigan

Landscape Category 

North Towards Virginia by Ben Hill

Blue Ridge Parkway Category ‘The Power of Nature’ 

Eagle Soaring over Price Lake by Rachael Salmon

Best in Show 

Radioactive, Fenced In by Jodie Castellani 

Details for the 20th Annual AMPC will be announced this summer.

Photos by Ken Ketchie.

Attendees enjoy the reception and photography of this year’s AMPC Awards Ceremony.

Richard Campbell, organizer of the AMPC and Associate Director of University Recreation at App State welcomes attendees to the awards ceremony.
The Jurors this year were Julie Rae Powers and Byron Tenesaca-Guaman.
Maggie Flanigan, with her photo called Backyard Clover, was the winner in the Flora Fauna Category.
A round of applause for winners.
Best in Show – $1,000 Cash Grand Prize – Radioactive, Fenced In by Jodie Castellani
Blue Ridge Parkway Category ‘The Power of Nature’ – Eagle Soaring over Price Lake by Rachael Salmon
People’s Choice Award – The Color of Summer by Rhonda Kingen
Landscape Category – North Towards Virginia by Ben Hill
Jeff Collins of Peabody’s Wine & Beer serves refreshments along with Bistro Roca Restaurant and Stick Boy Bread Co.


Best in Show “Radioactive – Fenced In” by Jodie Castellani

White Oak Lake in Oak Ridge, TN, has been considered by some as one of the most radioactively polluted lakes in the world due to its WW2 Manhattan Project heritage. Hidden in plain sight on a major highway, one has to look carefully to see the signage warning of possible radioactivity in the contained area. Remediation efforts have been underway for some time but some claim the area won’t be fully restored for decades. Meanwhile, the area eerily sits and waits behind its barrier for its eventual release while, unimpeded by a mere fence, birds and other wildlife freely move in and out of the area. The barbed wire fence keeps travelers away from what otherwise looks like a scenic winter lake scene.

Adventure Category “Fly Fishing the Davidson River” by Madison Roberts

Two hours before sunset a fisherman steps into the river to capture rainbow trout.

Blue Ridge Parkway Category ‘The Power of Nature’  “Eagle Soaring over Price Lake” by Rachael Salmon

An eagle taking advantage of the dam failure at Price Lake, which resulted in historically low water levels. While the lack of water provided abundance for the eagle, it also had a detrimental impact on fish and other wildlife.

Culture Category  “School Days” by Hannah Clark

Ma holds a photograph of her mother, Grandmother Shelby, as images are passed around during the family reunion. As images are passed, stories are shared with younger generations. Grandmother Shelby hated that haircut.

Ecological Footprint  “Development Site 3” by Zane Logan

The southeastern region of the United States is experiencing a remarkable number of new incoming residents. Spaces that once largely consisted of acreage and farmland have been transformed into subdivisions.

Flora Fauna Category  “Backyard Clover” by Maggie Flanigan

A clover pulled from a crack between a brick wall and pavement, laid flat on photographic paper and exposed to the sun of its original location.

Landscape Category  “North Towards Virginia” by Ben Hill

While hiking the Appalachian Trail north of Roan Mountain, this view of the Appalachians in southern Virginia in the distance appeared.