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Behind the Lens


C. G. Payne grew up near the coastal Carolina region, most of his childhood was spent having adventures in the Carolina wilderness, swimming in the Atlantic, and going on bike rides with groups of friends. After his freshman year of high school, he moved to Southern Indiana and started making new friends while exploring the midwest.​ 


From a young age, C.G. watched news updates and enjoyed staying informed on the world around him, that interest developed into a passion for journalism and photography. By his senior year, he joined the school photography club and newspaper.


After high school graduation, C. G. enlisted in the Marines as a combat photographer. His experiences in the military would be a crash course education that helped him understand the importance of documenting your world and find a long-term passion for visual storytelling.


During his five years of service, he attended the military photography program at the Defense Information School in Fort Meade, Maryland. C. G.'s first duty station was Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, from there he went on many training operations with various units and deployed to Afghanistan with 1st Battalion 2nd Marines to document day-to-day missions during Operation Enduring Freedom.


On May 28, 2010, a few days before his 21st birthday Carl was wounded by an improvised explosive device while being transported to a small patrol outpost along the Musa Qala river, in the southern Helmand province, Afghanistan, for which he was awarded the Purple Heart Medal. He suffered from a shrapnel wound in his elbow and a traumatic brain injury from the concussive blast. He recovered in the Camp Bastion hospital for a month and was able to return to his unit and finish out the deployment.


Once C. G. returned stateside he received orders for his second duty station in Okinawa, Japan. There his mission would shift from documenting combat operations to the documentation of humanitarian operations in Thailand and the Philippines. In between humanitarian exercises, Carl would manage two base photo studios on Camp Foster and Camp Hansen, Okinawa.  


C. G. was honorably discharged from the military in 2013, moved to Denver, Colorado, and began focusing on a degree in Social Documentary Photojournalism at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.

He has been actively working on assignments covering stories stemming from social movements such as the Standing Rock pipeline protests, veteran issues, the Black Lives Matter movement, tensions between opposing political parties, the epidemic of Tuberculosis in Krygyzstan, and the mass social experiment in the Nevada desert known as Burning Man.

Currently, he is a freelance photojournalist in between working on personal projects. 



Eddie Adams Workshop alumn, XXX, 2017

National Press Photographer Association 

Colorado Press Association 

Diversify Photo, Up Next

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