Eugene McDermott Library Opens New Art Gallery With UT Dallas President’s Photo Collection

A stunning scene of cascades in winter, a golden pond on a beautiful fall day and a spectacular series of solar eclipse images captured at just the right moment all were photos that were part of the inaugural exhibition in the Nebula Gallery, a new gallery in the Eugene McDermott Library, which opened Oct 18.

The opening reception of the Nebula Gallery celebrated 32 photographs from the portfolio of UT Dallas President Richard C. Benson. “A Hiker’s Guide to the Great Outdoors” features photographs of landscapes and night skies that Benson has taken during his many treks through mountains, meadows and fields throughout New York, Virginia and Texas.

“I’ve been living with these scenes and these photos for quite some time. It’s quite amazing to see them enlarged and framed. It’s just delightful, and it brings back so many great memories,” Benson said during the reception.

Benson took many of the photos during his time as engineering dean at Virginia Tech University, located in an area so beautiful that it provided striking backdrops for his pictures and allowed him to combine two of his favorite hobbies: hiking and photography. Although hikes through areas of southwestern Virginia, such as the Appalachian Trail, were often quite strenuous, Benson said, a spectacular waterfall or incredible vista was payoff at the end.

Dean of the Eugene McDermott Library, Ellen Safely

Dean of the Eugene McDermott Library Ellen Safely speaks with UT Dallas staff and special guests during the opening of the Nebula Gallery.

“Opening this gallery is our way of expanding the area of discovery beyond reading in an effort to heighten student success,” said Dr. Ellen Safley, dean of the Eugene McDermott Library, during the gallery opening. “Who better to inaugurate our gallery than our president?”

At the reception, UT Dallas faculty, staff and special guests had a first glimpse at Benson’s works — ranging from close-up shots of flora and fauna to the moon and planets in the night sky — all matted and framed and beautifully displayed in the library’s new gallery located on the third floor in the Special Collections and Archives Division.

“Some collections were relocated to make this space available, and we’ll be looking for new art on campus and locally to showcase in the future. We’re also planning to use this space for student exhibits,” Safley said.

Following a toast led by Safley to officially open the gallery, Benson answered questions and shared details about some of the photos in the exhibit.

Discovering a beautiful image — then capturing it at just the right angle at just the right time with just the right lighting — sometimes takes experimentation and oftentimes “many, many” shots, Benson said.

Guest viewing Dr. Benson's' photos

UT Dallas staff and special guests enjoy the works of UT Dallas President Richard C. Benson during the opening of the Nebula Gallery. The president’s photo exhibit will be on display in the gallery through December 20

“One of my personal favorites is called Little Stony Creek, and that is my place of Zen in the whole planet. It’s a spot on the river that I just adore, and I have shot that picture a thousand times or more. I’ll shoot it 30 times or more on every hike and then take the best one,” Benson said. “In this collection, there are a lot of ‘best ofs.’ I wish I could say that every time I shoot a picture like that, but I don’t. It takes some experimentation. That’s the beauty of digital.”

Benson, who credits his daughter, Stephanie, and son, Jim, for influencing his journey as a photographer, says he’s one of the relatively few photographers who shoots with a Sony camera as opposed to a Canon or Nikon. Most of his photos were taken with a Sony Alpha a65 and a Sony Alpha a6000.

The exhibit runs through December 20. The gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Visit to see President Benson’s portfolio.

A special thanks to photographer Sarah Wall for providing us with the amazing photographs.

Page Last Updated: January 7, 2019