Ben Corda

Ben Corda is a visual journalist and university photographer for Tennesse Tech University. He travels often, capturing personal and environmental portraits of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Instagram: @bencorda

How did your interest in your medium begin and how did you arrive at your current style?

I found my mom's old Pentax 35mm and just started messing around in the mid 90's. Most people still were using film, and I enjoyed not having to rely on the batteries that always ran out on those plastic block 90's 35mms. I took lots of photos of pets and trees and my interest in photography was quickly overshadowed by my interest in guitar. I wasn't the greatest at that but definitely played all the punk power chords very loud. I was given a DSLR on my birthday right before I went to college, and I started shooting bands. Photography started getting me into concerts for free, and I was hooked. I started shooting for my university's newspaper. This world was crazy to me. Photography gave me great access and a paycheck. My grades suffered. I transferred to a different school that offered a degree in journalism. They promised me I would be able to graduate in three years.

Let me be very honest here. I am not a great writer... I am not a good writer... I pretty much hate writing, but I was able to use my knowledge of photography to tell stories. Started working with another university newspaper. Sought out mentors (although I didn't know it then). Started working as the photographer for my school. Had a professor push me to apply for an internship program. Spent months being the multimedia department for newspaper in Indiana. I always had my camera with me and never turned down an opportunity to shoot. A few months before I graduated I was offered a job that paid more money than I could imagine at the time. I later found out that I was pretty much living right above the line of poverty. 

I would never trade those years though. Shooting everything everyday is what developed my style. Photojournalism is what shaped my ethics. I always had my camera: didn't matter if it was a huge DSLR or just an iPhone. To me, being in the right place and being able to interact with strangers is far more important that great glass. 

How do you feel about the relationship of an artist to their city or surroundings?

For me to create any work I must feel connected to where I'm at. If its a morning walk around a city, engaging a local stranger in a conversation, or sipping a beer and watching my surroundings. I grew up in a military family and moved every two years during my formative years. I've always had a hard time calling a place home. One day I realized Louisiana is my home. I'm never going to be able to be a true local. I'll always be a respectful visitor that longs to live as a local wherever I am. 

How do you choose your subjects?

I shoot most everybody. I enjoy learning about my subjects. I learn everyday from the people I photograph. How can you choose your teachers?

Who have been some of your biggest influences or your best teachers?

The first time I saw Arnold Newman's environmental portraits I realized that I really identified,

I have had so many great teacher's and mentors, the best ones encouraged me and never told me no, and were there to push me when my ideas didn't turn out. 

Do you have a creative or artistic peer group in your area that you're a part of? 

It might seem odd, but with everyone spread out across the world, Instagram is my creative group. My wife also inspires me with her creativity. 

Where do you go to draw inspiration?

I play a game every morning where I try to notice something new on my way to work. Everything can be inspiring if you're open to seeing it. But I also love going to museums and jump at the chance to see paintings.

Are there any aspects of the Southern aesthetic that you embrace or ones you consciously avoid?

I'm honestly not sure I think about it when I photograph. Sometimes when driving around the South, I see something that makes me feel a profound connection. I run towards that feeling anytime I feel it pull at my heart. 

Do you feel creatively satisfied?

Satisfaction seems pretty complacent to me. I always push. 

Tell me about a recent, current, or upcoming project or exhibition.

I love still imagery. I can't see myself leaving this medium, but I've been dabbling more and more into multimedia and timelapses. I keep trying to psych myself up to vlog. In fact. What the hell. This might be the push I needed. Sometime soon, I will upload my first vlog at