July 08--Visual Language magazine for August features a two-page spread on Walla Walla photographer Brian Bennett. Brian's series of photos follows the development of a rainbow over a lavender farm by the Burlingame Trench at Frog Hollow and Lowden-Gardena roads.
Brian has used his photography as a tool to help in his mother Sammy Ann Bennett's recovery from serious health challenges. Sammy Ann is deaf and following a cochlear implant procedure, pancreatitis and a stroke, Brian and his father Larry Bennett worked tirelessly to reach through her seemingly impervious fog.
Brian took classes in graphic design, landscaping and horticulture at Walla Walla Community College, but art has always been a strong point. It came into finely tuned focus after his mom became ill. He got into photography to trigger a responsive from her. "It seemed she couldn't comprehend anything. It seemed like her brain was gone," he recalled.
So he photographed things with which she was familiar. He pointed the images on his computer toward her at her bedside. "She'd look at the screen while I told her stories and stare and didn't seem to comprehend," he said.
Brian told Sammy Ann about places in Walla Walla from her younger years, such as the Natatorium and Graybill Pond. But he'd put his own spin on the stories, which had a rousing effect. "One day, when dad and I were just about to give up, she sat up in bed and said, 'That's not how it happened!' She finally came out of it."
Brian volunteers at Quail Run Retirement Community and planted a garden there for residents. He decided to bring life within reach of the residents. "They don't have family or friends or anything," Brian said. " I visit them over at Quail Run, bring photos into them and take pictures of things they remember."
His interest in landscape photography fomented when he attended church in the Bonners Ferry area of the Idaho panhandle. "I was so intrigued by the Missoula Floods and had no idea what I'd discovered," he said about how it impacted the environment.
Delving into University of Montana (Missoula) geology professor David Alt's book, "Glacial Lake Missoula and Its Humongous Floods," "I became more enthralled with the subject."
Brian photographed the ancient wavecut shorelines in Missoula, saw the direction the water traveled through Sand Point when the ice dams burst and gushed massive flooding through Eastern Washington and into Northwestern Oregon, saw the dry falls at Omak and nonnative granite boulders scattered helter-skelter on mountains and the landscape.
"One can only ask, 'how did they get here?'" He said when the ice dams broke during the last ice age, stones released from the ice dropped 400 feet high in some places. The flooding scabbed the land and carved out Palouse Falls, the Snake River and the Columbia. "Right at Lowden-Gardena Road in Touchet there's the Burlingame Trench where layer upon layer of deposits expose evidence of the flooding. A route driver at the U-B discovered that," Brian said.
Brian gained inspiration from Don Davis, who retired from the Union-Bulletin as its outdoors writer. "A lot of my photography and work and adventures parallel his experiences. I go all over the world trying to capture something, the character of the whole place. Every town's different but you can find at least one thing that's the hub for the area, sometimes in hidden nooks and crannies."
He also studied the 1931 Walla Walla flood, seeking archived photos at the Whitman College Library and through the Bygone Walla Walla website to piece together what happened.
Brian currently operates Walla Walla Valley Photography as a nonprofit business. He would like to sell his work and has printed and framed copies of his photos to exhibit at Darrah's and Fenton-Stahl galleries and on Facebook.
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