(WBIR-WEST KNOXVILLE) A gallery opening this weekend in the heart of Sequoyah Hills features the photography of an East Tennessean who embraces the wilderness of the world.
Paul Hassell is a nature photographer.
"I have been in Alaska on a glacier for 28 days," Hassell said. "That was an interesting experience."
He's made multiple trips to Patagonia, Argentina where he shot one of his favorite photos.
"I was walking back to the camera in the dark and all of the sudden I realized this white line showed up. It was the head lamp on my head. And I had not shown up at all in the photograph. And that became a pretty intense metaphor for me in which I would like to have a life in which people remember the light I was carrying along my journey and they didn't really remember me," he explained. "I've seen all kinds of epic grand landscapes all over the world now, but there's something about this part of the world that I can really live in."
Now he's opening a gallery in Knoxville's Sequoyah Hills neighborhood a couple blocks from his childhood home and about a mile from his high school.
"East Tennessee is the most beautiful place on Earth, hands down so my family and I do make this our home," he said.
"You're really learning to see you light finds us, how the camera is a tool that receives light not captures light," he said.
Paul is not only a nature photographer. He also teaches hands-on nature photography workshops and hosts wilderness tours where he is both guide and photography teacher.
"Photography is just an avenue through which we see more deeply what we are appreciating anyway. So I like to tell people that I don't even have to have the camera to have that greater joy and that greater passion for the wilderness. It trains us to see," he said.
While he is based in Knoxville, he still travels with his camera.
"The camera was the vehicle through which we had an excuse to go sit by a river bank for eight days and photograph bears because if you don't have a camera they call you a kook."
He's more of a nature lover with an eye for light and a heart for East Tennessee.
"There really isn't anything more amazing than these Smoky Mountains. People come from China to see the Smokies."
The open house is this Sunday from 11:00 to 2:00 at Light Finds Gallery. It's in Sequoyah Hills next to the Plaid Apron Cafe.