Meet Them In The Alley

Everyone wants to meet in the alley!

More specifically, everyone wanted to meet in the Loft Gallery at the Wheeling Artisan Center Thursday, July 31, for the opening of Wheeling photographer Bennett McKinley’s innovative new exhibit, “Meet Me in the Alley.”

As many area residents know, for the past few months, McKinley has been encouraging folks to meet him in the alley that runs beside the Professional Building in the 1300 block of Market Street in downtown Wheeling. Once there, at the appointed times, the young photographer snaps a portrait-style shot of a willing subject.

The clever project has generated considerable buzz as McKinley has posted the photographs on his business’ Facebook page and many of the “models” also have posted images on their own Facebook pages. A number of the photos (printed in black and white) have been framed and displayed on the walls of Vagabond Chef Matt Welsch’s new restaurant, the Vagabond Kitchen, in the McLure Hotel in downtown Wheeling.

Now, nearly 300 black and white prints have been affixed to every available wall surface in the Wheeling Artisan Center’s third-floor Loft Gallery for an exhibit that will remain on display through the end of August.

A huge crowd turned out for the opening reception in the Loft Gallery Thursday evening. The event featured the unveiling of the collected images, plus live music, food and beverages. Of course, most of the photographic subjects attended to see their photos on display. Friends and relatives of the “models” and other interested community members also turned out to view the assembled images.

Many folks took pictures of their own photos, while some posed with their photos for a “double exposure” style picture. At least one person, SMART Centre Market proprietor Robert Strong, posed for a “triple exposure” image captured when Strong held a color print of his alley photo next to his black and white portrait. That shot, and others that I took, can be viewed in Seen/Scene on Page D8 of today’s Life section.

McKinley had 4- by 6-inch color prints on hand to give to his photo subjects. “With the addition of the color photos, that makes 594 total prints in the exhibit,” he said.

The exhibit features people from all walks of life, young and old alike, from newborn infants (and at least one “wombmate”) to senior adults. Public officials, including Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie, Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron, Wheeling Councilman Don Atkinson and the photographer’s father, U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., posed for the portraits.

There are pictures of police officers, firefighters and even familiar local figure Charles “Moondog” Waldrum on his ever-present bicycle.

Several dogs also are featured in alley shots. Some doggies were held or restrained by their human friends, while other canines posed solo.

However, there are no cats shown in the exhibit. Perhaps, area felines don’t want to be labeled “alley cats.” But a golden opportunity awaits the area’s most photographic cats – what do you say, Diamond, Ming, Tin Snip, Scout, Bobby?

Speaking of opportunities, McKinley said he will be returning to the alley in a few weeks and encouraging more folks to meet him there for a photo shoot. Everyone has a chance to be “famous”!

Meanwhile, Katy McKinley, wife of the photographer, also is seeing her own independent business soar.

She is the owner of Handmade Escapade, operating from her home-based studio in Wheeling. McKinley, who has made and sold knitted items through her business, also creates T-shirts that she sells online at her site on In addition, she said, distribution of her specialty T-shirts has expanded to include online sales at

“As a featured seller on Country Outfitter Marketplace, Handmade Escapade will have access to Country Outfitter’s 10 million customers, as well as marketing and social media support from the leader in country and Southern lifestyle,” McKinley stated.

She explained that her line of T-shirts includes designs for each of the 50 states in the union, based on “a state slogan, song, license plate, dialect or saying.”

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: