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How CSE Prepared One Freelance Photographer to Live Her Dream

Morristown, N.J. (January 5, 2018) – One of Judi Benvenuti's earliest memories is seeing her drawing of an Indian framed and hung in her principal's office. She was a kindergartener in East Orange, N.J.

As a child, Benvenuti remembers being drawn to all things visual, especially old black and white photographs of her family members. She studied their faces for hours while trying to imagine what they were thinking.

Today, Benvenuti, who earned her bachelor's of English and elementary education in 1963 from the College of Saint Elizabeth, is a successful freelance photographer based in Mendham, N.J. She credits the College's English department for broadening this passion for the visual arts world and exposure to the world of literature.

"I took all of the arts courses that I could at Saint Elizabeth's. All of my teachers were very nurturing and taught me how to stretch my learning and love of the arts. They pushed us to always go above and beyond what was required," she says. "I still do this today."

Post graduation, Benvenuti spent time as an arts instructor at Cape Cod Sea Camps, and was a fifth grade teacher in Westfield. "I love children and the arts," she explains.

After earning master credits in Fine Arts from Columbia University, however, and at a time of unrest and riots in the United States, Benvenuti wanted more.

One day she packed two suitcases and met her cousins in Karlsruhe, Germany. She ultimately stayed to live in Europe for eight years. There, Benvenuti taught in the Department of Defense elementary schools. It was while overseas that four of her freelance photo essays were picked up by National Geographic's "School Bulletin."

Seeing her photos published propelled her confidence in photography fast forward at high speed. Benvenuti continued with her photography career in Yosemite, California, while studying alongside famous photographer Ansel Adams.

She attributes much of her success to his philosophy of "getting it in the camera."

As of today, Benvenuti has photographed countless subjects – including nature, weddings, portraits and events such as the famous annual Basel Fasnacht carnival in Switzerland. Benvenuti has also captured celebrities in their own environments, including Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Isaac Asimov, Candice Bergen and Luciano Pavarotti.

Currently, Benvenuti is working with the Smithsonian on archiving her photographs of black civil rights activist Dick Gregory who died this past summer, among others. She is also involved in a photography book project for children.

Benvenuti, who considers herself a very layered person, has been to 23 countries and taken photographs in every one.

"At the end of the day I love people and am very curious – I know how to get to the heart of the matter in every subject," she says. "I love what I do – it's never work."

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Founded in 1899 by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, the College of Saint Elizabeth has a strong tradition of concern for the poor, for developing leadership in a spirit of service and social responsibility, and a commitment to the promotion of women as full partners in society.

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