Local teen photographer captures moments to cherish
Emma Ketterer, 15, Kutztown, this month’s featured artist at Hamburg Art Gallery
The Art & Craft Gallery of Hamburg’s featured artist for July was Kutztown teen photographer Emma Ketterer, 15, a member of the Hamburg Area Arts Alliance. The gallery hosted an artist re- ception on July 20.
“It’s surreal ( showing in the gallery). We started out so small at a flea market and now we’re at a bunch of different stores all over Berks County so it is really cool to have that sort of reach and audience,” said Emma during the artist reception. “So much encouragement ( from people). I would have loved this even if it was just solely me who got to enjoy it but having so many people responding, just loving it the way I love it is really great... Photography seems like such a simple way to share your life with other people.”
Hamburg painter Brian Warfel, a member of the Art Alliance, came out to meet Emma at the artist reception.
“She has a very sharp eye and knows where the shot is. I’m drawn to that,” said Warfel. “With her medical difficulties, she’s very high spirited and seems very positive... It’s fantastic that she has an outlet like this and is also very good at it. I think it’s pretty impressive.”
Tilden Township photographer Jay Ressler, also a member of the
Art Alliance, typically attends the artist receptions to show support to local artists.
“I’ve been wanting to meet Emma. I’ve seen her photos around for awhile. She’s got quite a good eye.”
Last year Emma was named Budding Artist by Dancing Tree Creations in Boyertown. She began taking photos around her 12th birthday when Lyme disease stripped her of her active life, even preventing her from going to school.
Her mother, SuEllen Ketterer, said photography has helped Emma.
“Her photography has helped her feel productive when she could do little else. She gets such satisfaction in capturing just the right lighting for that perfect shot. She also enjoys making people smile.”
Being able to show her photography at local galleries and businesses has validated Emma’s talent and brought her joy as she brings others joy. The photography has also helped them spread awareness about Chronic Lyme Disease and maybe prevent others from going misdiagnosed for so long.
Her mother said Emma continues to struggle with her health on a consistent basis and still suffers from insomnia, exhaustion, and brain fog, which prevents her from attending school but she is slowly working through her classes online.
“These challenges have forced Emma to slow down so as not to miss the precious moments of life, which most of us are too busy to catch. Her strong character and maturity are beyond her years, and she does not take life for granted like most people do,” said SuEllen. “Even now when she’s able to do more schoolwork and those sorts of things, it gives her joy and she loves bringing other people joy, that she can capture these special moments. All of these photos are documentation of her having a good day so it’s very special for us.”
Emma agrees that the photography has been a huge help to her health and well being. While her health has been improving, photography continues to help get her out. The photography and the community support has been uplifting, she said.
“Just keep looking for all the great moments in life you want to share,” said Emma.
Lining up the shot to take a photograph, Emma feels excited when she finds that scene she wants to capture in a photograph.
“I always feel good when I have a camera in my hands.”
Photography has helped her to be more observant. She takes her camera on family trips to places like the beach, Longwood Gardens, and New York City, but the majority of her photographs are of local scenes and animals such as horses, cows, cats and her favorite, deer.
“I think what I like most about photography is how honest it is,” said Emma. “I go about my day, I see something raw and beautiful, and I can’t help but think that it’s a moment that deserves to be cherished. And I love that it’s so easy to then share those moments with anyone, regardless of where they live or the language they speak.”
Emma explained that her love for photography began with a gift from you her uncle, his old Canon 20d, for her 12th birthday. About six months before this she had become ill, and it was around the time of her birthday that the symp- toms began to worsen exponentially.
“Most days I was too weak to get out of bed, let alone attend school or participate in the many sports and extra- curriculars that I had been involved in. When I received that camera for my birthday I had absolutely no clue how to use it, but I think in a way it was that challenge that attracted me to photography,” she said. “When you’re 12 years old and you’re not even able to read anymore, the prospect of something new and inciting that fits within your limitations isn’t just exciting, it’s life changing.”
Experimenting with photography and learning her way around the camera through simply trial and error provided her a stressfree way to push herself and experience the world, even if the days when she was able to were rare, said Emma.
“As my condition worsened, my photography left me with a physical image that I could turn to as a reminder that I was trying my hardest. Photography became such an important part of my life so quickly that just two years after I picked up my first camera my grandmother and mother began selling my photos at local markets and festivals,” said Emma. “From there it just kind of took off, but after four years my reason behind taking photos hasn’t changed.”
When Emma first started taking photos she would tell people that photography was her way of finding the beautiful moments in her life despite her illnesses. has helped teach me to see every moment of my life as beautiful, illnesses and all. Everyone has their own struggle, and I suppose it’s my hope that sharing my photos with others will spread that positivity and their own surroundings,” said Emma. “And, of course, if a photo of a zebra’s butt ( hey, it’s a crowd favorite) can brighten even one person’s day then it’ll all have been worth it.”
Kutztown photographer Emma Ketterer, 15, taking photos while out on a family trip. Her photographs are on display at the Art & Craft Gallery of Hamburg.
“I think since then I’ve realized that photography maybe even help them to appreciate the beauty in
Photo by Kutztown photographer Emma Ketterer, 15.