Local artist sending two works to Smithsonian exhibit

Benjamin Walls, a fine art photographer from the Tri-Cities, is used to having his work featured in major museums.

"This image is called 'The Twelve' and was featured in the Smithsonian in 2008," Walls says. He owns a gallery on State Street in Bristol, Virginia.

Now, two of his photos are headed to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History at one time. "There were 5,500 entries, and out of those 5,500, there were about 60 images picked for the exhibit. Two of them were mine, so I'm excited about that," he says.

It's for the Smithsonian's September exhibit "Wilderness Forever: 50 Years of Protecting America's Wild Places." It's an anniversary exhibit celebrating The Wilderness Act, a law that protects what Walls loves most: wilderness and wildlife. "The Wilderness Act is now responsible for 109 million acres of wildlands that have been protected, and that's about 5 percent of the total landmass of the United States," he says.

News 5 got to look at the images - the first entitled "Frontier." It was taken at Baxter State Park in Maine. It's a panoramic shot that captures the interaction between three moose. "It actually took two falls in the making. I was there in 2011, I saw a lot of moose signs but I didn't see any moose. So I came back in 2012, and I was 9 days into the trip before I was able to find a moose," he says.

The other image, "Stand," was taken in Northern Colorado. It's the first black and white image to be selected for exhibit in a major museum. "This is a very independent image because you've got this evergreen tree that's in a vast forest of aspen trees," he says.

Walls says he's honored to make it to the Smithsonian for the third time, considering he's a busy guy. "My goal is to put two new pieces on the wall every month, but that's a very difficult thing to do. That doesn't sound like much, but that's a blistering fast past in the fine art world," he says.

The exhibit opens at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History on Sept. 3. The images will be on display for six months.

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