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Artist-in-residence captures beauty of Homestead through photography

October 11, 2018 GMT

For Washington, D.C. resident Jim Schlett, 2018 might as well be the year of Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln, that is.

Schlett, a retired postal service executive turned photographer, has spent the year as an artist-in-residence at four national parks that have some historical tie to the 16th U.S. president.

This month, Schlett is busy capturing the beauty of Homestead National Monument - his fourth and final artist-in-residence stay of 2018.

The photographer was also selected as an artist-in-residence this year at Manassas National Battlefield Park, Gettysburg National Military Park and Catoctin Mountain Park, where the presidential retreat Camp David is located.

“It’s like I’ve hit the lottery,” said Schlett. “All four of those have a connection to Abraham Lincoln, which I really found kind of unique. It sort of is the year of Lincoln for me.”

Schlett arrived at Homestead on Oct. 1 and will stay at the park until Oct. 15. As part of his stay, he will lead a photography hike on Saturday, Oct. 13. The hike will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Homestead’s Heritage Center and end at 7:30 p.m. Those interested are asked to bring a camera and wear sturdy shoes.

Schlett first found his passion for photography when his parents gifted him a Polaroid.

“I loved the ability to take out the picture and see it immediately,” he said.

Naturally, he signed up for yearbook and newspaper in high school and later got an associate’s degree in photography.

Schlett spent time in northern New Jersey, where he originates, as a photographer in a large commercial studio.

It wasn’t until he retired from the postal service a few years ago that Schlett decided to get back into his Polaroid-inspired passion.

Schlett was drawn to the artist-in-residence programs at the nearly 40 national parks that offer them. He and his wife Gail have visited nearly 140 parks in total.

“There’s such a connection that you don’t know you have,” Schlett said. “That’s how I feel each time I go into one of these parks.”

Schlett’s work has been published in the Washington Post and the Fairfax Times, among others. His photos have also been featured in galleries and art shows and garnered numerous awards, according to a Homestead press release.

Since 2016, Schlett has been an artist-in-residence five times. Now that he’s almost completed with his year of Lincoln, he’s already eyeing 2019.

“I’ve already started applying for ones next year,” Schlett said. ”[It’s] the first line on my application - my goal each year is to do an artist-in-residence.”