KITTERY, Maine ó Bennett Christiansen hadn't yet turned 16 when his photograph of a winter-covered Acadia National Park appeared in The New Yorker magazine.
The picture, showing a sky of pink and purple pastels with hundreds of snow capped rocks, a location known well as Boulder Beach, had been selected as advertisement material for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. For the now 16 year old who finds his passion in nature photography, it was his big break.
And it all started with an iPhone four years ago.
Finding enjoyment in snapping shots from his mobile device, Christiansen eventually went out and bought his first camera.
"After that, I kind of fell in love with it and I was amazed with the perspective I was able to show with the photos that I take," he said. "From there, with the internet, Iíve been able to progress fast enough and make a name for myself."
Christiansen is a high school sophomore, doing an alternative learning experience through Traip Academy that allows him to do school work from home, while engaging in extended learning opportunities. It's also given him the space to nurture his photography talents.
On April 5, Just Us Chickens Gallery on State Road in Kittery will host an artist opening reception from 4 to 7 p.m., kicking off a month-long exhibit of Christiansen's photos, highlighting parts of the Seacoast he's captured, while also including some other special locations in Maine, Massachusetts and Colorado. It's essentially his "big welcome" into the Seacoast photography community.
"I used to shoot mostly landscape photography but nowadays I shoot both wildlife and landscape,"†Christiansen said. "So I call it nature photography. In general that's what I love doing. Photography is my excuse for going out into nature."
Christiansen said one of his favorite experiences so far has been photographing the night sky at Rocky Mountain National Park. He's also accrued quite a portfolio of Whaleback Lighthouse at the mouth of the Piscataqua River.
In 2017, Christiansen was the youngest photographer to attend an Out of Chicago workshop at Acadia National Park. He photographed the night sky atop Cadillac Mountain, and watched the sunrise from Great Head. "That kind of opened that door to meeting new people and connecting with like-minded individuals," he said.†
The workshop brought in several popular, well-known outdoor photographers such as Thomas Heaton, Nick Page and Chris Nicholson, people Christiansen had previously admired from afar.
The past fall, a neighbor showed Christiansen an advertisement asking for photos for a new campaign by the Natural Resources Council of Maine. He sent in a few photographs taken in Acadia, and in December, one appeared in an issue of The New Yorker magazine. In small white font printed along the right lower corner of the page, it says, "Bennett Christiansen."
His photos were also featured in the council's annual calendar.
"I was shocked because that was kind of the first step for me in building a career in photography," Christiansen said. "It makes a difference when you share that fact (with people)."
Christiansen said he's grateful for the alternative learning experience he's been able to do, "doing more of what I love" while earning a high school diploma at the same time.
"I want to travel a lot when I grow up," he said. "I donít care as much about how many people see my photos, but I kind of use photography as a way to give a voice to the environment. My goal would be to have my photos preserve nature in some way."
Currently, his work is being sold and displayed locally at Provisions at Pepperrell Cove, several business offices, and even Dunkin Donuts in Kittery. Because he's photographed a lot of Kittery and Kittery Point, many residents have his work hanging in their homes, too.
Christiansen's exhibit will hang at Just Us Chickens at 156 State Road for the month of April beginning with the April 5 opening reception. To see more of Christiansen's work, visit bennettcphotography.smugmug.com.