Some of my teachers, coaches & mentors through the years

Stanley, Dorie, Lucy and Don Rutledge in front of their home in Midlothian, Va. [Photo was taken by Chelle Leary]

There are a few people who helped me get my bearings in the world of photography. Don Rutledge had an incredible impact on my life. I think it has more to do about how much I admired his work and what he had done for missions.

Ken Touchton, photographer, photographs one of the participants in the Ramblin’ Wreck parade.

Another photographer that really made an impact was Ken Touchton. Here he was covering the same annual Ramblin’ Wreck parade before the Georgia vs Georgia Tech game that I covered for more than 15 years.

Ken Touchton and myself

Ken had started in photojournalism, but also would expand into corporate and advertising. When I went freelance from being on staff in 2002, Ken was the guy who called me weekly. We talked about my goals and ambitions. Then each week he called as my accountability partner.

Knolan Benfield

My foundation started with my uncle, Knolan Benfield, Jr. He worked with Don Rutledge long before me at the Home Mission Board in Atlanta from late 60s to the late 70s. He also worked with Ken Touchton.

Knolan taught me how the mechanics of the camera worked as well as teaching me how to use studio strobes and posing people. You could never be around Knolan when he ran the Benfield Touch studios in Hickory, North Carolina and not hear him talking business practices. He was proud of being a small business owner and was quite successful.

Each one of these as well as many others I would meet through the years helped me by developing my inner character. They taught me a World View that was based in Christian principles of right and wrong and most importantly in the importance of searching for Truth.

I learned that treating people with honor, dignity and respect was the only way to be successful. Each one taught me how to listen with more than just my ears. Don and Knolan especially taught me the importance of body language.

They helped me to realize my degree in social work was a real asset in the world of communications.

Greg Thompson Portrait

Late in my career of freelancing, I met Greg Thompson. He brought me on to work with his corporate communications team at Chick-fil-A. We helped each other grow in so many ways.

I was always going to Greg with ideas that I thought would help Chick-fil-A. Greg taught me more than anyone else that in communications you start with the audience. Why do they need to hear this story? How is it going to help them live more productive lives? At Chick-fil-A the question was, “How is this going to help them sell more Chicken?”

Here is a quick list of topics they taught me

  • How to make a well exposed photo
    • Knolan Benfield
  • Understanding lighting, composition, and communicating with a photograph
    • Knolan Benfield
    • Don Rutledge
  • Your role as a photojournalist
    • Don Rutledge
    • Knolan Benfield
    • Ken Touchton
    • Greg Thompson
  • Business practices
    • Knolan Benfield
    • Ken Touchton

Who are your teachers? Who is coaching you?