Photographer Ben Lehman doesn't want people to just look at his images. The Paonia resident wants viewers to find inspiration to venture out into the natural world and "get to know it personally" through their own camera lens.
An exhibit of Lehman's work, "Ben Lehman: Adventure Photography from the Western Slope and Beyond," is open through Feb. 14 at The Hive Paonia Gallery, 130 Grand Avenue. Lehman selected from among some 20,000 images for the show, and hired Clubb's in Delta to do the framing.
Lehman is a self-taught photographer who discovered his love for the outdoors as a Boy Scout growing up in the New Orleans area. He earned degrees in English and environmental studies from Georgetown University.
Much of his adult life has been spent connecting with the natural world. "Wherever I went," said Lehman, "my camera was by my side." He has hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail, performed technical work at the National Geographic Headquarters, and was a volunteer at Tongariro National Park in New Zealand, a vast landscape where the Lord of the Rings scenes for Mordor were filmed.
From 2006-2008 he was a Peace Corps volunteer in a remote gold-mining area located in the sierras of Ecuador. He describes the gold mining practices as providing local jobs while destroying the local environment. The town where he stayed, Cerro de Arcos, dates back at least 400 years and was in the process of transitioning from mining to tourism. "There's a special presence there," he said.
Lehman is currently the media content coordinator for Solar Energy International. He is also on the marketing team for TEDx Paonia, scheduled for Feb. 6 at the Paradise Theatre, and will be taking still images of the event. "I can hardly believe this event is being held here," said Lehman. "It offers forward-thinking people concerned about creating sustainable ways of life."
Lehman is also a member of West Elk Mountain Rescue. He plans to offer "photo safaris" to encourage others to appreciate the natural world. "I want to help people get empowered and take their own shots" in order to gain a better understanding of and perspective on the natural world," said Lehman. "We rely on it, and it's threatened."
Works by Vincente Mario are also on exhibit at The Hive. To see Lehman's images, visit www.lehmanimages.com.