By Les Morris
The Winter Olympics have ended, but the U.S. is still competing against the world in artistic endeavors. The World Photographic Cup pits Team USA against the best photographers from 35 countries, and Carmel-based resident and business owner Roben Bellomo has been chosen to be a part of the American team for the third time in five years.
“It’s one of the highest honors to represent the country,” Bellomo said from his BEHN Gallery at 2149 Glebe St. in the Village of WestClay, which he co-owns with partner Jim Hamel. “I also love how it shows unity,” he says of the international competition. “Anything to show unity now is important because we have a lot of things pulling us apart.”
His entry in the commercial category is a light painting of a motorcycle. Because the project required total darkness, he did the work in the middle of the night using a light wand to illuminate different parts of the machine. It was painstaking work. Bellomo took 130 images and ended up using 40, which he combined in Photoshop to make the final product.
“As artists, we’re proud of all the time we put into developing the art,” he said. “People forget how much is involved in the creative process. People don’t see all the work that goes into it.”
The World Photographic Cup began in 2013 as a cooperative effort by The Federation of European Photographers and Professional Photographers of America. It is contested in six categories: commercial, illustration and digital art, nature, portrait, reportage/photojournalism and wedding. The winners will be announced in Rome in early May.
The public can see the work of Team USA at the BEHN Gallery through the end of March. Bellomo said this is the first time the finalists for the World Photographic Cup have been presented in a gallery open to the public.
Bellomo had to hustle to make the exhibition happen. The team was announced in December, and he began acquiring prints from the various artists of their winning work shortly before Christmas. Everyone responded positively, he said.
“I’ve been appreciative and humbled by everybody’s willingness to do this,” Bellomo said. “It feels like it’s important. It’s impactful.”
Bellomo had opened his initial business, Bellomo Studios, in 2014. He and Hamel opened BEHN Gallery during the COVID-19 pandemic in September 2020.
“People get excited about the process,” Bellomo said. “I realized how much people need to be part of that and learn about it. I decided I wanted to have a small gallery space in my studio.”
He added that when he works in the studio, the process is client-driven, and when he is in the gallery, it’s artist-driven.
Carmel residents Misty and Steve Arterburn commissioned Bellomo to create a portrait of their daughter, Amelia, to commemorate a daddy-daughter dance at their church late last year.
“When our 12-year-old daughter finally saw the portrait Roben produced for her, she had a most profound reaction,” Misty said. “At a time when most middle schoolers are experiencing social awkwardness and ‘tween’ challenges, Amelia was able to see herself from another’s lens and affirm, ‘I’m beautiful.’ As her parents, we gratefully ask ourselves, ‘What is that worth?’”
Misty appreciated Bellomo’s work after the shoot as well when he came back with 100 pictures of Amelia, an emotion she describes as overwhelming.
“He helps the client narrow down the selections based on the mission of the project. He is capable of keeping the client on track,” she said.
Learn more at behngallery.com.
A return to the Midwest
Roben Bellomo and his family have immersed themselves in the Village of WestClay and love living in Carmel. The family relocated to Central Indiana from San Diego in 2013.
“I love the community aspect,” Bellomo said. “I’ve not lived in a place so welcoming to families.”
It’s a return to the Midwest for Bellomo and Adrienne, his wife who is a Michigan native. The couple has two children, a daughter Neva, 10, and son, Bodhi, 7.
Bellomo opened BEHN Gallery in 2020.
“People don’t think twice about spending $100 for a so-so meal or $8,000 for a couch, but they look at the artwork like it should be found at a discount. We’re trying to offer the experience that allows them to change their thinking,” Bellomo said. “We’re helping people build connections to experiences, to themselves and the people and places around them.”
The artist has Midwest roots, too. He graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette with degrees in math and science and then taught 6th through 12th grade for 10 years. Photography was a hobby, but that changed upon the family’s arrival in Carmel.
“When we moved here,” he said, “I decided this is my career.”
Bellomo is passionate about his work and is quick to give credit to his family and support team for his success. Yet his demeanor is relaxed, inviting and easy-going.
The vibe carries over to the gallery, too.
“Our intention is for people to come in and be comfortable,” he said. “We want to offer them a positive experience with the artwork.”