Earl Carter has been taking photographs of the Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia region for more than 45 years. As a photographer for the Kingsport Times-News, he’s attracted many awards for his approach to the images of this hard-working and resourceful people of the Appalachias.

Earl has a special character about his craft. It’s the one thing that distinguishes him from a photographer who shoots landscapes, weddings or commercial work. That quality is his ability distill a subject’s character in his portraits.

Maybe that’s the essence of his work that still intrigues me and why I’m so excited to see him return to his craft with a project he’s titled ‘Appalachian Album.

One of Earl’s first collection of photos was ‘Southern Visions.’

I remember the first print from this series because it hangs on my wall at my home office. I’ll never forget the day he signed it with a #1 and had a wide smile as I paid for the first print. That black-and-white photo is a stunning example of Earl’s ability to capture a moment as an elderly woman reaches to the sky in a moment of rapture following her baptism in a Southwest Virginia river. Two preachers in white short-sleeved shirts are aglow as onlookers watch the event from a shallow depth of field in the background.

This photo and others are evidently a part of Carter’s dream for the new book. He’s currently seeking donations via a Kickstarter campaign and describes his plan.

“I realize there have been many photo books about Appalachia, but I have tried to do something a little different. My book will have an Epilogue featuring “then & now” photos with text revealing what has become of the subject in the photos. I found it very interesting to see what had become of them.since I first met them.”

This is an extraordinary project and brings together the past and the future for Carter. My hope is that he produces this extraordinary work which is best illustrated by his documentary about Jimmy Christian below.