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Meet Lynne Bentley-Kemp of Bentley-Kemp Photographic Arts in Florida Keys

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lynne Bentley-Kemp.

Lynne, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I fell in love with photography when I was an art student at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I married a photographer and stayed in Rochester NY for 29 years. It was like living in a bubble. We had the George Eastman house as an indispensable resource and Kodak was in its heyday back in the ’70s and ’80s. Many famous photographers would visit RIT and share their expertise, people like Annie Leibowitz, Eugene Smith, Mary Ellen Mark, Cornell Capa, the list is long and illustrious. This period in photography was invigorating and inspiring – there were so many wonderful teachers. Women were very attracted to the medium and the demographic in the discipline changed very quickly. I was fortunate to have two very influential woman photographers as my professors, Betty Hahn and Bea Nettles. They had a lot to do with the development of my aesthetic approach to photography.  I earned my BFA and MFA with a concentration in printmaking and photography, then left for a year in England where I taught printmaking at Nottingham Polytechnic and Derby College of Art.

In the late ’80s, I started teaching at RIT and when I left in 1999 to come to the Keys, I was a tenured Associate Professor. I wanted to learn much more about how photography connects to the rest of the world and became a Ph.D. student at FAU in the Comparative Studies program. I studied the link between photographic images and the trope of paradise and received my Ph.D. in 2003. My dissertation was titled “Recovering Eden: The Photographer in the Garden”. I’ve been making pictures in this vein ever since. I have been working on a long term project titled “Atmospheric Conditions” where I combine science and art, making observations on weather conditions and cloud formations, subsequently creating images that are reminiscent of the Hudson River School. The title of the images are the date and time that the photograph was made. For so many years I made pictures in black and white and now, I’m fully immersed in color. I’m pretty sure that came about when I moved from gray Rochester to the seductive color of Florida. A selection of this work will be exhibited at the Studios of Key West in February 2020.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I have to admit it’s been a fairly smooth road. Academia fostered and supported my passion and I was able to earn a decent living while making my art. If there was an obstacle of any sort, I either ignored it or circumvented it. I’m driven to create and virtually nothing gets in my way. Being married to a wonderful photographer helped a lot. My husband was extremely supportive and always had excellent suggestions on how to solve technical problems. It helped that he was an accomplished photographer and professor – we could brainstorm together and turn each other on to new concepts and artists.

Please tell us about your work.
Now retired from my academic career, I’ve been actively pursuing my side ‘gigs’. I have been free lancing in various areas. Thanks to my time at RIT, I was able to learn a lot about the conservation of photographs, book design and making photographs of works of art. This gave me a unique skill set and has enabled me to consult on insurance claims that relate to damaged photographs and books. In addition to that, I have been recently involved with photographing a local artist’s “art boxes” (a la Joseph Cornell) and designing two books for her, a book of her poetry and a fictionalized memoir. Both books are illustrated with the artist’s works. I have curated exhibitions and conducted one-on-one tutoring sessions. Presently I’m working intensely on the exhibition I‘m having in February at the Studios of Key West.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I lived on Long Island when I was a kid and I especially loved the school field trips we would take, thanks to living in a very enlightened school district. We would go into New York City and visit the Bronx Zoo, Hayden Planetarium, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History in grade school, junior high and high school. All of this fed into my insatiable curiosity and added so much dimension to my love of animals, science and art. Another memory that stands out was the children’s library in my home town of Westbury. It was a magical portal into the world of children’s books. I loved all the illustrated books on animals, geology, anything to do with natural science. When I thought about what I wanted to do when I grew up, I wanted to be an illustrator or biologist.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
All of these images are made by me and will be exhibited this coming February at the Studios of Key West.

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