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Pictures worth a thousand words

A Q&A with award-winning University Photographer Ken Bennett

By Sarah Boerkircher Office of Communications and External Relations
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In his 18th year of documenting life at Wake Forest, award-winning University Photographer Ken Bennett has a unique, but long-term perspective of the University. Rather than finding it a challenge to photograph the same place for the hundredth time, he finds opportunity in getting a new shot of a familiar place, like the Z. Smith Reynolds Library.

One of Bennett’s first, and favorite, images of Wake Forest is of the library’s cupola at dusk, a photo he shot in 1997.  Over the years,  he has captured the structural changes in the library as well as hundreds of students and other members of the community who come and go. Yet the ZSR library continues to inspire him in a way that few other places do.

“Rising above the campus, the cupola is a recognizable symbol of Wake Forest, visible from many locations in Winston-Salem, and it makes an excellent subject as well as a background for portraits,” Bennett said. “The interior spaces of the library, bustling with student activity, are wonderful places to find those small, intimate moments that make candid photography so compelling.”

On Friday, Aug. 1, “Worth a Thousand Words: Ken Bennett’s Photographs of Z. Smith Reynolds Library,” opened in the Special Collections & Archives at the library. Bennett selected each photo on display in this, his first, campus exhibition.

Q: The photographs in your exhibit all have a common theme – Z. Smith Reynolds Library – why ZSR?

A: The library is the academic center of campus, and one of my favorite places to make photos. It’s the first place I go when I need student life images, or to meet a student or a professor for a portrait.

Q: When did you know you wanted to be a photographer?

A: When I went back to school, at 23, to finish my undergraduate degree, my father gave me a camera as a gift. I found a darkroom in the basement of the student center and it rekindled a childhood fascination with photography. I became totally obsessed with it, and starting shooting for the school paper and yearbook.

Q: Why Wake Forest?

A: I was lucky to be offered the position by the University editor at the time. I’d been a freelance news photographer for about nine years in Richmond, Va., and had done a lot of work for colleges and universities by then, so I knew I would enjoy the work.

Q: As the University photographer, you often get backstage access. What is your most memorable moment?

A: Being in the locker room after the Orange Bowl game in 2007. We had just lost a close game, really a heartbreaker, and I was able to capture the emotion of the players and coaches with whom I had spent so much time with that season.

Q: You’ve been a photographer for nearly 30 years. What inspires you?

A: Picking up a camera and looking for those small, candid moments between people. I love finding the little things that no one otherwise would see.

Q: What are your favorite stories to tell?

A: All of them.

More information on Ken Bennett

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