This year is a "big one" for local photographer Benita Keller. She is celebrating thirty years of photography and sixty years of life. Currently her "30/60 Celebration Events" include an exhibition of her photographs at The Mecklenburg Inn and an one-person exhibition at the Bridge Gallery through-out the month of August. The opening reception at the Bridge Gallery is Sunday, Aug.10 from 3 to 5 p.m. She will be showing old favorites, never seen older work, and new photographs which feature Shepherdstown and Shepherdstown gardens. There will also be a "scrapbook" wall which details 30 years of her photographs including portraits, landscapes. nudes, family, and photographs from Africa, Vietnam, Russia and Cuba. She will be having a "Chat With The Photographer Happy Hour" at The Mecklenburg Inn on Friday, Aug.22, from 4 to 8 p.m. and a Gallery Talk at The Bridge Gallery on Saturday, Aug.23, from 3 to 5 p.m..
Benita Anderson was in the last graduating class of 1972 from Shepherdstown High School. She played solo clarinet in the concert band but when asked "are you local" loves to make the comment that she wore her white majorettes boots marching down main street Shepherdstown leading the Shepherdstown High School marching band as head majorette. Keller says her mother didn't like her hanging out in town after school, but she loved being able to go to Betty's for French fries with her friends which was an after school ritual.
Keller grew up on a 40 acre farm in Kearnysville where her mother still lives. She started photography using her mother's Brownie camera at age 9 as a 4-H project when she was member of the Evergreen 4-H Club. Keller enrolled at then Shepherd College as a business major with a concentration in economics but when the first photography class was offered she quickly made the switch to the art department and became one of the first graduates from the photography department at Shepherd. She went on to receive her Masters degree in photography from the University of Maryland under the direction of John Gossage and has never stopped taking photographs; having exhibitions across the country and receiving awards and grants for the next 30 years.
While she has taught photography as an adjunct at colleges and universities for over 25 years and currently is teaching digital photography at Hagerstown Community College, she say being a fine art photographer and photojournalist is her profession. While she has embraced digital and loves Instagram and the IPhone is her "backup" camera, Keller still shoots in film and makes silver prints in the darkroom. She teaches photography workshops locally and will be announcing new ones for the fall.
One of the new photographs to be on exhibition at the Bridge Gallery is "Hanging Girl, Kelly- Miller Circus, Williamport, Md, 2014."
Keller said she started taking photographs of the Kelly-Miller Circus in 1989 when they arrived every year in Hagerstown; taking her daughter, Sarah, then five with her for that one day the circus was in town. Sometimes she said she would "miss them" and meet them in the next town. The early photographs were taken with her Nikon 35 mm camera with Tri-X film and printed on silver paper. The Kelly-Miller Circus returned to Williamport this year. The new photograph is taken with Benita's IPhone that she says she sometimes answers the phone with and is printed with an inkjet printer on fine artist paper. Keller says that this is a great example of the her 30 years of photography and that she is living "The History of Photography." Both silver prints and Instagram prints of the Kelley-Miller Circus will be on exhibition at the Bridge Gallery.
Follow Benita on Facebook to see what else she might have planned for the end of year in celebration of her "30/60 (Thirty Years of Photography, Sixty Years of Life)."
For more information about Benita Keller, her exhibitions and other happenings or to see more of her work go to or contact: The Bridge Gallery, 304-876-2300, www.benitakellerphotography.com, www.trailerandtrash.com, www.bridgegalleryandframing.com