Charles Benoit completed his B.F.A. in Studio Art: Photography from Michigan State University this past May and is now using the skills he gained as an undergraduate by working in Los Angeles on promotional material for Mark Rodriguez’s upcoming film, Rudolf.
“The movie is still in production, so there’s not a lot I can release about it right now,” Benoit said. “It has yet to be shot, and we’re still pitching it to different places right now. We are negotiating with some well-known streaming platforms and figuring out where we’re going to take it.”
Rodriguez was looking for a Detroit photographer to help promote the film and saw Benoit’s Instagram account as he was putting #detroitphotographer on a lot of his posts.
“He loved my work, so he messaged me and said, ‘I need a behind-the-scenes guy to shoot some stills while we make this trailer,’” Benoit said. “Of course, I said, ‘I’ll be there, that sounds awesome.’”
This isn’t the first time Benoit has worked in Los Angeles. As an MSU student, he worked for Photographer and MSU Fine Art alumnus James Ross Mankoff on set various times throughout the summer of 2019. That position was made possible thanks to an introduction made by Peter Glendinning, Professor of Photography, and Jacquelynn Sullivan Gould, Assistant Professor in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design and Director of Galleries.
After working as Mankoff’s assistant for just a few days, Mankoff was willing to help Benoit by offering to navigate future contracts with clients and critique his portfolio.
“He’s just so kind and willing to advise with any photo-related questions I have,” Benoit said. “This was an experience I would have never had were it not for Peter or Michigan State.”
I learned a lot about design, composition, and color (at MSU)…Without those design classes, the 3D form stuff, I wouldn’t have as strong of a vision.
Benoit says Glendinning is “the one who really made a difference” by helping him learn a variety of photography-related techniques, including darkroom photo development, and gave him general encouragement to pursue his dream career.
Benoit also honed his craft by shooting photos for the university’s Residential Housing Services and the MSU Theatre Department, working as an intern at Chicago’s Field Museum where he photo-documented the world’s largest insect collection, and working on promotional material for Fabletics, an American sportswear brand.
Altogether, these experiences helped Benoit build a wide-ranging portfolio.
“I learned a lot about design, composition, and color (at MSU),” Benoit said. “I remember sitting in my color and design course and cutting and gluing paper. I hated it. But now as I’m shooting something for a client, I’m thinking back to the design principles that I learned that are now subconsciously ingrained in me. Without those design classes, the 3D form stuff, I wouldn’t have as strong of a vision.
“Also, without the communication skills that they teach you in the art school, I would have had a hard time. That was one thing that was big at MSU was being able to talk about your art and talk about a craft.”
Benoit’s advice to other artists and photographers: “If you are persistent, have an eye, and are willing to work for it, someone will eventually throw you a bone.” This is how he said he ended up working for the Field Museum and MSU’s Theatre Department.
To learn more about Benoit and his work, visit his website at cbenoitphoto.com.