BETHEL — Photography has followed Danna Brown Nickerson since the day she was born.

Her father, Don Brown, attended the New York Institute of Photography after serving in World War II and was a professional photographer in Bethel for the rest of his life.

Her brother owns and operates photography studios in Windham and Westbrook.

Nickerson may not be professionally trained like her father and brother, but the art of photography has permeated her life.

Nickerson’s collection of photographs are being displayed in the Bethel Historical Society’s Valentine Gallery at the Robinson House from now until Sept. 30.

It’s the inaugural show for the society’s revolving series of local contemporary art exhibits. 

The exhibit, titled Places of Memory, documents the facets of Bethel, Nickerson said, including the landscape, architecture, and aesthetics.

“I’ve been taking pictures all my life, but I never had any professional training,” Nickerson said. “I just take pictures of things I see for fun. I’ve been taking pictures of Bethel for quite awhile.”

Randall Bennett, executive director of the Bethel Historical Society, said the society was looking to invite locals to exhibit their work to promote local contemporary art.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s photographs, sculptures, drawings, or paintings,” Bennett said. “We’re hoping to draw focus to the different artists in our area and the contemporary art they’re creating.”

Nickerson’s collection is the society’s first contemporary art exhibit in the Valentine Wing. Bennett said he hopes to have a new artist or group of artists exhibit every few months.

The society didn’t have to look far to find an artist for the inaugural show: Nickerson has been a lifelong resident of Bethel and a member of the society for nearly her entire life.

“My parents were very involved in the historical society,” Nickerson said. “I’m actually related to the Dr. Moses Mason that the Dr. Moses Mason House is named after.”

After graduating from college with a degree in fashion merchandising, she came back to Bethel, gave birth to her daughter, and became a stay-at-home mother until her daughter graduated. After that, she started volunteering at the society and was later hired as office secretary.

“It’s a huge part of my life,” she said. “I’m a life member.”

For Nickerson, displaying her photographs for an audience is a rare occurrence. Before the society exhibit, she had only displayed her work twice: once in the 1970s, with her father and brother at the Bethel Library, and last year at the Mill Hill Inn.

“This is the first time that I’ve had anything displayed at the historical society,” Nickerson said. “It’s in a long hallway that makes for a wonderful gallery space.”

While having her own exhibit means giving people a chance to see the art she’s been creating throughout her life, Nickerson sees the exhibit as more than a window into her artistic process.

“I’m trying to capture the buildings that we have in town right now and make a record of them,” Nickerson said. “While going through town, I took pictures of everything, no matter the condition. Some places are kind of sad and starting to fall apart, but I think it’s important to record what’s here.”

She calls Bethel a “very pretty town” that hasn’t changed a lot. “It has maintained its peacefulness,” she said.

Nickerson’s exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

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