For photographer Kelsey Bennett, art is a way of life.

 

“Next to my bed there’s an easel, in front of it I have a guitar on the wall, I always have a notepad in my bag. I’m always inspired,” says the 25-year-old, whose first solo exhibition showcasing her lush, conceptual images opens today.

 

And for that, Bennett has a long line of loved ones to thank. She first started taking pictures when her grandmother Sandy taught her to develop film at age 12. Her sister plays muse in most of her work. Both friends and family pitch in on the set designs. And it doesn’t hurt that her grandfather is crooner Tony Bennett. (Though the former Annie Leibovitz and Vanity Fair intern says nepotism isn’t a question).

 

Still, don’t expect to hear any of his jazzy numbers playing in the background during opening night — Joan Jett and the Shangri-Las are just some of the names Bennett rattles off from her hip playlist for the event. “My photos are very retro feeling so we’re going to do some ’60s stuff, but then some fun, ’80s dance music,” she says.

 

Unlike most uptight artists who would rather burn the gallery down than discuss the meaning behind their work, Bennett is happy to dissect her images, which explore topics such as identity and gender.

“The concepts I come up with are a mix of what I see in the world, but inspired by mythology as well,” she explains. “And that combination of things is very dreamlike to me. I discovered the concept of hypnagogia, which is the state between wakefulness and sleep. When you look at my photographs … that’s where they could reside.”

“Hypnagogia”
The Christopher Henry Gallery
Jan. 14-Feb. 7
127 Elizabeth St.
212-244-6004