Charlotte photographer Joshua Galloway has been in the industry for around 12 years. His work has been featured in several nationally known publications including Essence and Ebony magazines. This month, however, he’ll check off one milestone that he calls his top accomplishment besides becoming his own boss as a full-time photographer.
On Jan. 21, Galloway’s work will be featured in a new exhibit at The Light Factory titled In the Line of Sight, which highlights his coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement during the summer of 2020. With the exhibit, Galloway aims to provide truth to the Black narrative while inspiring racial inclusivity in the local photography scene.
Galloway, now 31, came to his photography journey through graphic design, a passion of his while studying computer science at Fayetteville State University before transferring to UNC Charlotte in 2009.
As he began to get deeper into graphic design, he came to the realization that he needed quality pictures to accompany his work.
That’s what led to Galloway purchasing his first camera, a Nikon D3000. Since then, he’s built a name for himself both as a portrait artist and photojournalist. (Full disclosure: Queen City Nerve hired Galloway to help cover protests in Uptown in June 2020.)
For his portraiture work, Galloway uses a prime lens, which doesn’t have the ability to zoom, so he’s known for bending himself into abstract positions to get the shot he wants, forming a “human tripod,” as he calls it, to get the best angles.
He said he utilizes his past experience with dance as well as track and field to help him bust out moves while he works with clients. After all, the client isn’t the only person that should be moving during a shoot, Galloway said.
“We should be dancing. I should be dancing too.”
For the work featured in his new exhibit, however, Galloway put himself in precarious positions that had more to do with dodging tear gas and batons than getting the right angle.
An unlikely friendship blooms from a chance meeting
Although he’s been familiar with The Light Factory for years, this is Joshua’s first time working with the Plaza Midwood photography studio, which is located in the back of the International House on Central Avenue.
He said he never felt qualified to be featured at The Light Factory, as he hadn’t seen many Black artists centered in the space.
The connection came from John Davis, a local photographer, owner of Jetpack Photos and a mentor to Galloway. Davis introduced Galloway to Kay Tuttle, executive director of The Light Factory, via group text, which led to an in-person meeting between Tuttle and Galloway at a local coffee shop.
Galloway arrived at the meeting a bit shaken, as he had been followed by a police officer on his way there.
This naturally led to a passionate conversation between Tuttle, a white woman, and Galloway, a younger Black man, about the Black Lives Matter movement.
Looking back at that first meeting, Tuttle said it felt like she had “known [Josh] forever.” They’ve become close friends since, meeting regularly to discuss not only the exhibit but the goings on of the country.
Tuttle made it her goal to help Galloway get exposure through a new exhibit, while Galloway made it his goal to educate Tuttle on issues in the Black community, while also pushing for more inclusion for people of color at The Light Factory.
Change comes to The Light Factory
According to Tuttle, her meeting with Galloway came at an opportune time.
Exhibits are usually booked at least three years in advance, Tuttle explained, but with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the cancellation of multiple events and exhibits, a door was opened for In the Line of Sight.
“COVID opened the opportunity for change,” said Tuttle, though 2021 brought more change to The Light Factory than how they book events.
Inspired partly by her conversations with Galloway and by other factors, including a broad racial reckoning that occurred following Black Lives Matters protests across the country, Tuttle went to work on increasing inclusivity at The Light Factory.
While the gallery was closed for COVID, Tuttle rearranged her staff and the way they operate, bringing on more people of color and holding regular meetings to educate staff on issues facing minority communities.
In 2021, Tuttle hopes to launch a residency program devoted to providing photographers of color with the equipment and guidance needed to elevate their creative endeavors.
She told Queen City Nerve she would like for Galloway to facilitate and lead this program, she just needs to find the funding first.
The importance of Black storytellers
Joshua noted that in the African-American community, photography is often looked at as a means of survival, with many talented folks limiting themselves to graduation and wedding photos because those are the highest-paying gigs.
There’s nothing wrong with that, Galloway said, as he cut his teeth on commercial photography, but he hopes to see more Black creatives empowered to “use your eye to create” and explore a different side of photography.
He described In the Line of Sight as a “human-being-focused” look at present-day America.
As Galloway described it, photojournalism has always been a “staple in history,” crucial to accurately depicting the Black narrative. It’s known that history books only tell a part of the story, but photojournalism offers a truth that has to be seen and can’t be distorted.
In the Black community, specifically, photojournalism has an important, though emotional role to play.
“A portion hurts and a portion gives us something to cheer for,” Galloway said.
Galloway gets loud
In his own work, Joshua Galloway sees more creativity in his freelance photojournalism work as compared to the intention put into his commercial photography. A large portion of the work featured in the new exhibit feature images of signs that people held during the George Floyd protests.
“The signs were so loud,” Galloway said.
In fact, the exhibit features some of “the loudest statements ever,” according to Galloway, beginning with the first picture gallery-goers see as they enter the exhibit: a full-wall image of a protester holding a sign. The sheer size of the image makes a statement, setting the tone of the work. Many images throughout the gallery are also blown up to amplify the message.
One of the most challenging aspects of preparing the new exhibit came in narrowing down the pieces to be included, said Tuttle, as In the Line of Sight features only a portion of what he captured.
The exhibit is intended to educate members of the community who couldn’t make it to the protests, showing that what protesters dealt with in Uptown Charlotte throughout June “can happen in your own backyard,” Galloway said.
Some folks didn’t show up because of rumors connecting the spread of COVID-19 among the Black community to ongoing protests over the summer, rumors that have since been debunked. He took it upon himself to hit the streets for those who couldn’t come out for whatever reason.
“This is what it looks like when someone who looks like you documents your truth,” he said. “It is not about me, it’s about everybody,” said Galloway.
The movement never dies
The protests may have taken place months ago but Galloway feels that his exhibit is still timely as ever.
“This was six months ago, and it is still affecting us,” Galloway said, adding that he wants to continue to spread the message that “Black lives matter because they still do,” beyond the point when organizations and brands are tweeting their support for the movement because it’s trendy in the moment.
His images have also been used by local defense lawyers in court to provide context for cases related to the protests.
“Photography is my weapon,” Galloway said, a weapon that’s proven useful in fighting for social justice in the Black community, dispelling myths about what happened over the summer and shedding light on the Black narrative.
Tuttle hopes that through Galloway’s exhibit, people will “explore common humanity” and develop a sense of empathy for hardships that take place in the Black community. “It provides the opportunity for everyone in the community to have conversations.”
In the Line of Sight will open on Jan. 21, with an event scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Registration will be required so as to limit capacity, and 25 people will be taken through a tour of the exhibit at a time. Following the opening, the exhibit will be available for view via appointment only. Following the Jan. 12 directive from Mecklenburg County Public Health asking that residents only leave their house for essential travel, many local museums have shut down. We will update this story if any changes to this exhibit’s scheduled opening are announced.
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