Photography marketing

Henderson’s Castelli shares the beauty of nature through photography


What started as a fundraising project to help Corolla horses turned into a passion for nature photography for Phyllis Castelli.

“I started taking photos of the horses and making note cards and matted prints that could be sold in stores at the Corolla Wild Horse Fund Museum,” Castelli said. “It really took off and worked very well for many years.”

Corolla wild horses are descendants of Spanish horses brought to the New World in the 1500s. They have become an institution in eastern North Carolina. In 2010, they were designated a state horse.

Castelli’s interest in photography blossomed. After moving to Henderson in 2015, she started growing flowers and shrubs in her garden to attract birds and butterflies. Plants and flying objects became targets for his camera.

Photography helps you see, Castelli said. “When you look through the lens of a camera, you see things you didn’t see before.” It has to do with perception and memory, she explained. “The more you look at a photo, the more you learn about it.”

Now the images captured by her camera are printed on note cards she makes for friends and for the United Methodist Women’s Bazaar at First United Methodist Church in Henderson. And she puts note cards – with pictures of nature or photos of the church’s stained glass windows – in a basket in the church’s narthex for Sunday worshipers to take away for free.

“The basket is pretty big,” she said, “and I’ve filled it six or more times. Literally hundreds of cards have been pulled out of those baskets. It really turned out to be a cool project. I’ve never been good at marketing my grades, so that kind of thing makes me really happy.”

Phyllis Smith Castelli grew up in Henderson. She graduated from Henderson High School in 1971 and attended East Carolina University and Barton College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and music.

She had what she called “a wandering career”, giving piano lessons, leading church choirs and teaching in various venues.

Music and photography are not Castelli’s only means of communication. She regularly gives sermons to children at the First United Methodist Church, using hand puppets or – at least on one occasion – her black Labrador Gracie.

During this time, her camera began to pick up more diverse subjects, including people she saw at church. People like Anne Cox, who for years played the piano before Sunday worship. Or the late Buddy Finch, who greeted worshipers on the church steps as they arrived.

She is married to Vincent Castelli, who works for the Ministry of Defence.

With spring approaching, Castelli said she will soon start working on her pollinator garden. And as it comes alive with flowers and flying objects, she’ll keep her camera handy, though she says, “I’m still a fan.”

Dispatch Diversions is inspired by Dave Elman’s classic NBC radio show “Hobby Lobby”. Contact us at [email protected] or 252-436-2831 if you know of a local hobby or interest worth spotlighting.