Business is all in the family

Jen Bennett and her father, Don, are photographers who opened Images Gallery last month. Don says he has gained a more artistic aspect on photography while working with his daughter.

Jen and Don Bennett redefine the term family photo.

The father-daughter duo opened Images Gallery on May 28 featuring photography from Jen, Don and no one else.

"She tends to lean a little more toward the artistic photography, and I tend to lean more toward the commercial side of it that tourists would buy. It doesn't always work out that way, but it's just the trend," Don said.

The gallery displays more than 200 images taken by father and daughter. The photos range in size from 5 by 7 inches to 4 by 10 feet.

Usually, people refer to the caption beneath the photograph to identify the photographer, but Jen doesn't need to do that to recognize her father's work.

She looks at the angle.

"The most consistent thing I see in his photographs is that he takes his photos at a 2.5 degree angle, but that's just because of the way he holds his camera," she said.

Jen learned photography from her father five years ago so she could photograph her acrylic paintings. However, after she picked up a camera, she put down her paintbrush.

"I fell in love with the medium," she said, "The purpose of doing photography isn't just to take pictures of something the way that it is, but to show people another way of seeing."

She said she feels there is some truth in the idea of an artistic eye.

"I see the world in these bright colors that you see in my photographs," she said, "If people can see Charleston as beautifully as I see Charleston, then they'll fall in love with it."

For her father, photography was just something to do.

He entered his first photo contest in 1982, and even though he taught his daughter photography, he said she's always teaching him something new.

"Mostly, I feel like I learn from her. I know all the technical aspects, but the artistic aspects is what I get from her," he said.

Don and Jen said their gallery is a collaboration from start to finish.

"We take my strengths and her strengths and add them together," Don said, "She's the artistic type and I'm the technical type. I've done businesses for a very long time and she has a very good idea about what people want to buy."

Don owned a scuba shop in Asheville, N.C., before he moved to Charleston. That was the first time father and daughter worked together. Jen worked at the scuba shop from high school through college.

However, she said it was nothing compared to the working relationship they have now.

"I went to college and high school in the same town that my parents lived in, and, I admit, I went through that rebellious phase," she said, "It wasn't until I went off to graduate school that I really became close with my family."

Now, she said she cannot imagine working with anyone else.

"I can't see a time in my life where I wouldn't identify as an artist or a photographer, and I can't really see a time when I wouldn't want to work with my dad," she said.

The whole gallery belongs to the Bennetts, and it is a risk they take together.

"If I had come to Charleston four years ago and we had opened Images and put these things on the wall, I would have been petrified," Jen said.

However, she isn't afraid with her dad around. He has more than 30 years of experience in sales and an attitude that still inspires his daughter.

"The thing I admire most about my dad is that he always stays so positive," she said, tearing up. "It makes me feel like everything is going to be OK."

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 937-5916 or cbyrd@postandcourier.