We had the good fortune of connecting with Blake Benard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Blake, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
My working motto is “Being Peace.” It’s the title of a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, and it’s become an instrumental idea in the way that I approach both my stories as a photographer and life in general. While I’ve spent a lot of time recently working in traditionally “peaceful” environments, doing nature photography in Alaska, I also cover a lot of pretty hectic and sometimes dangerous events, like my work covering the Black Lives Matter protests in Phoenix. I have to be able to find that calm in the midst of chaos to tell the story effectively, and it creates some pretty incredible shots. As I transition back into doing sports photography this summer, I will continue to keep this mindset. I find peace through photography, and I hope my images inspire others to do the same.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Somebody recently told me that it seems like most of the work that I’ve done, I went out and made happen for myself. It rings true, and it really is how I pursue photography. I like to work in a kind of ever-changing flux, because I have a lot of different interests, so I get a lot of my work from just reaching out to anybody and everybody involved in whatever new thing has captured my attention. I try to foster community wherever I end up, and keep an ear to the ground for anything cool happening nearby, as well. Between actively pursuing new interests and following the flow of local events, I end up working on a pretty wide variety of stories. I’ve learned that the most important skillset in these scenarios is to sit back, develop patience and listen before you begin to take photos. Most folks are understandably uncomfortable when they see a new kid on the block with a camera. Taking time and listening allows me to develop comfortable relationships with people and create a deeper knowledge of what the most important story to share is. I’m usually traveling and always interested in developing new relationships and sharing new stories, so to anybody reading this, feel free to reach out to me!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would show my friend around Arizona in the spring. The best part about Arizona is its biodiversity. This trip is a state-wide exploration of natural beauty, and has all my favorite eateries, bars and hang out spots along the way. While there is an itinerary of sorts, it’s not strict and we get to it as we feel like it. We have a list of things to do and then roll with the flow.
We’re in Phoenix for a few days. We’re hiking South Mountain Park & Preserve and the Superstition Wilderness. We have to get food at Welcome Diner and Pizziera Bianco and grab drinks at Cartel Coffee Lab and Casey Moore’s Oyster House in Tempe. Gracie’s Tax Bar, Valley Bar, The Nash and Songbird Coffee are essentials for nightlife and drinks. If we have time, there’s a spring training game at Tempe Diablo Stadium with our name on it.
After Phoenix, would would get away from the big city and head up north. We’d spend time camping for four days at Locket Meadows underneath the shadow of Arizona’s highest peak, Mount Humphreys. We’d hike Devil’s Bridge in Sedona, swim at Slide Rock, hike Humphreys, and see the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. As needed, we’d eat at the Hideaway House, Red Curry Vegan Kitchen and Historic Brewing Barrel And Bottlehouse in Flagstaff.
I love all of these spots because they are important to my life in Arizona. The restaurants, coffee shops and bars are where I like to be in my city, while supporting the locals. Being outdoors is where I find peace and all of those spots have a connection to my life. A lot of folks think Phoenix is a giant strip mall and that Arizona is just a desert, but there is so much this state has to offer. I want to show that to my friends.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Phoenix Suns broadcaster Eddie Johnson once told my classroom that whenever you climb over a wall in your life, you throw the ladder back over to help someone else do the same. These are just a few of the many authentic people who have helped me climb the ladder of life.
Starting in high school, thanks to my club swim coach Brendan Rodrigues for teaching me how to approach adversity with a calm mind and sparking my love of sports.
While at Arizona State University, my entire college radio family at Blaze Radio ASU brought the sheltered mind of a homeschooled Arizonan into the wider world while setting the foundation of my journalism career. I’m eternally grateful to Amanda Luberto, Jaye McCauliffe, Roddy Nikpour, Robby Baker, Ryan Bafoloukos, Brianna Randazzo, Jonathan Diego, Dominic Cotroneo, Tyler Prime and countless others. My time in college radio is forever engrained into the person I am today.
Thank you to Brett Kurland, Paula Boivin and Roy Dabner at the Cronkite School. They are compassionate, understanding and three of the best professors a student could ask for.
At the Cape Code Baseball League, my thanks go out to the late Patrick Loftus for originally bring me on board. Thanks to Eric Zmuda for trusting my vision in the broadcast booth. Special love to Rob and then Debbie and Steve Brokelbank for housing me during my two summer on the Cape and being two genuine souls. Thanks to the entire organization for creating a welcoming environment.
That summer wouldn’t be the same without my second job as a cook at Coffee Obsession. Thanks to my partners in crime in the kitchen, Annie Sloop and Charro Zuck for teaching me to make tasty food.
My thanks to Jon Hoban at 91.5 KJZZ for hearing way too many wacky radio pitches and letting me explore my creativity. Thanks to Phil Latzman and Lauren Gilger for being so cheerful.
The folks at the Phoenix New Times are incredible. Thank you for letting me tell stories from my hometown.
Thank you to Ian Theodoridis, Jeremy McCarthy and Brynn Foley at the Major League Baseball Network. It was a hectic environment and your kindness stood out. Thanks to the entire crew but specifically Casey Hamel, James Taubl, Mike Villani, Conor Hickey, Jack Ross, Samantha Siciliano and Anthony Moran.
Olivia Khiel and David Key at Atlas Artist Group allowed me to photograph countless concerts and created my love of music photography. Thanks for letting me cover the NYC music scene.
Thank you to Zack Bender and EJ Hernandez at Manley Films for showing me the ropes as I learned to navigate the world of film production.
Michael Paschall at the Seward Journal let me share stories in Alaska on my own terms and listened so well. Thank you for helping me learn to love local journalism again.
Lastly. thanks to Solomon D’Amico with the Seward Tsunami Swim Team for letting me coach a sport I love so much and be myself. It is because of this job that I’m deciding to photograph sports once more.