Before there were famous photographers such as Philip Hyde, Ansel Adams and even Josef Muench, there was pioneer landscape photographer H.H. Bennett. Originally a carpenter in Kilbourn City (currently known as Wisconsin Dells) and a soldier during the Civil War, Henry Hamilton Bennett suffered injuries during battle that forced him to retire from carpentry. He opened a portrait studio in 1865 and began shooting landscapes soon after. His 43-year career captured the magic of the Wisconsin River, its monumental rock formations, the visitors, lumber rafters, residents and much more. His work put the Wisconsin Dells on the map, so to speak, and placed him in the rankings with some of the nation’s most famous photographers. If you have ever taken a photograph during a Bluegreen Vacation, you should go pay homage to this father of the profession.
About H.H. Bennett’s Photography Studio
If you’ve planned a vacation for the Wisconsin Dells, show some appreciation for the history of photography and the Wisconsin Dells by visiting Bennett’s studio. Located right downtown on Broadway, opened in 1875, Bennett’s studio has been in continuous operation ever since its opening day. It is believed to be the longest running photography studio in the United States. In 1998, Bennett’s family donated the studio to the Wisconsin Historical Society to ensure its preservation. It continues to house many of Bennett’s original photographs, negatives, inventions and equipment.
The Wisconsin Historical Society restored Bennett’s studio to its original 1908 appearance. It now features exhibits depicting the life and times of this influential photographer. Get a look at the stop-action shutter he pioneered, his glass plate photography and other self-engineered props and machines. The museum has a lot to offer the photography lover and history lover alike. Not only did Bennett revolutionize photographic techniques by way of inventions such as the stop-action shutter, he introduced new methods of printing pictures. His revolving solar printing house is now in the Smithsonian.
This little piece of photographical history is an important part of American outdoor culture. His works influenced both photographers and travelers – inspiring them to get out there and capture the great outdoors.
Odyssey Dells and Christmas Mountain Village are near the downtown location of the H.H. Bennett studio. After you tour the studio and museum, stop by the museum store and pick up a print, book or souvenir. Use your piece of Wisconsin history as inspiration for your own vacation photographs.