Man turns hobby into fundraiser

For years, a Claremont businessman owned A. Klein & Co. and manufactured iconic heart-shaped boxes for candy and other gifts.

The company has since ceased production, but that hasn't stopped Jesse Salwen from creating other things that make people smile.

Salwen, of Claremont, started taking photographs in the 1940s with a Brownie Box camera. Photography has changed a lot since then, but 73-year-old Salwen's love for capturing images on film hasn't.

Now back from a recent photography trip in the Antarctic Peninsula, Salwen compiled his wildlife images into a presentation about his experiences on the trip and is donating the proceeds to the Humane Society of Catawba County.

"For many years, I've taken a picture, but since 2002, I've worked on not just taking a picture," he said.

Salwen wanted to learn how to use his digital camera to create images that captivate, surprise and excite. So, he started learning the best way he knew how — by simply doing.

His Claremont studio contains pictures of ducks, giraffes, kite-flyers on the beach and curly-haired dogs. Salwen said there's no rhyme or reason to his photographs; he sees something, and he tries to capture it on film in the best way possible.

Salwen also has landscape and monument pictures from he and his wife Marty's prior travels throughout the world, including trips to Egypt and Iceland.

A trip to Antarctica was on the Salwens' "bucket list" — a list of things they always wanted to do together, Marty said. Salwen is the photographer, while Marty loves videography, and together, the two love capturing their travel experiences on film and sharing them with anyone willing to look.

They left for the two-week, photography-themed trip in early December, which is Antarctica's summer season. Salwen and his wife flew from Atlanta to Buenos Aires, then from Buenos Aires to the southern tip of South America.

From there, they boarded a boat with other photographers for a 10-day trip to the Antarctic Peninsula. Two of those days were spent traveling through the Drake Passage, which is considered some of the roughest waters in the world.

Salwen said many people were seasick during the journey, but ultimately, a few rough waters were worth the trip.

"Where we went was so phenomenal that you forget about what you went through to get there," Salwen said.

They arrived in Antarctica and stopped at several ports along the way.

Travelers boarded a smaller boat before sailing to shore and wading in the Antarctic waters to step on shore.

There, Salwen snapped pictures of several native species, including many different types of birds, penguins and orca and humpback whales.

Salwen had a long lens to capture animals from a distance, but for the most part, he said penguins were friendly creatures who came right up to where photographers were sitting.

Whether the birds were sailing in mid air or balancing precariously on an iceberg, Salwen used techniques he learned throughout the trip to capture the creatures in their natural habitat.

"I started to print and show our friends (the pictures)," Salwen said. "I got so much interest in them that I wanted to do something with it."

Salwen volunteered at the humane society in the past and took pictures of the organization's adoptable animals, so he said it seemed only natural to donate money from the exhibit to the humane society.

Salwen's exhibit will be 3 p.m. Sunday at Lake Hickory Country Club.

Spaces are limited, and admission is a $5 donation to benefit the Humane Society of Catawba County. To RSVP, call (828) 464-8878.