From kayak guiding in the Pacific Northwest to crafting communication strategies for the mayor of New York City, Ben Sarle has been all over the map. The one thing that remains constant? Community.
Ben Sarle isn’t strictly behind the lens – at least, not anymore. A seasoned photojournalist whose portfolio ranges from tense action shots of Vermont marathoners to warm portraits of cultural and political icons, Ben now answers to a title that makes him hesitate: “influencer.”
As @BenLens, Ben has grown his Instagram following by producing outdoor and lifestyle content, primarily in the Northeast. His feed is studded with rugged coastlines, impending storms, and snow-dusted pines, along with the occasional ad for CBD gummies and natural deodorant.
But the reason the word “influencer” doesn’t seem to quite fit is that Ben keeps it genuine and simple. His moody portrait of a fox could be paired with a sober meditation on the value of the wilderness, but that’s not his art. Instead, Ben throws down a dry pun (“Oh for fox sake.”), serving a striking image with a smile and leaving it at that.
Ben’s path to content creation has been anything but linear. Following a stint as a kayak guide, Ben set aside his paddle and returned home to Burlington, Vermont where he began work as a photographer at a local newspaper. What started as a job snapping photos of school plays and craft fairs unfolded into a dynamic career. A cast of colorful characters rub shoulders in his portfolio – a scented candle mogul, a ship captain whose vessel had been hijacked by Somali pirates, and even Barack Obama.
As Ben’s portfolio expanded, his care for his subjects and audience never faltered. “I loved capturing moments that would impact the community,” he says.
In 2014, the Wall Street Journal assigned Ben to photograph Jake Burton Carpenter, founder of Vermont-born Burton Snowboards, and Donna Carpenter, owner of Burton and Jake’s wife. When Jake passed away in 2019, the news of the visionary’s death reverberated throughout Burlington and the snowsports community he helped build. As a tribute, Ben shared his portraits of Jake, encouraging anyone to use his photos to commemorate the godfather of snowboarding.
With his earnest demeanor and finger on the pulse, Ben was soon pulled into the political arena. “I think politics is one of the most direct ways to positively impact your community, especially on a local or state level,” he explains. Assuming the role of political communications professional, Ben tirelessly funneled his creative energy into crafting bold campaign visuals for the Democratic Party of Vermont and communications strategies for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
As a self-described “recovering political spokesperson,” Ben found content creation when he left the grind of politics to refocus on his core passions – photography and outdoor adventure. Whether he’s testing camper vans in the Grand Tetons or shooting Renoun ski content on the slopes back East, Ben gets to spend less time articulating and more time capturing.
With the days of involved photoshoots and delicate political messaging behind him, Ben finds pleasure in “less,” both online and offline. Once drawn to staged photoshoots and light manipulation, Ben is now drawn to natural images. “It’s almost subconscious the way I shoot,” he says. “There’s less gear, less production, less staging. I’m happy with what organically appears on camera.”
As Ben’s camera kit has simplified, so has his online experience. When he transitioned to content creation, Ben traded the cacophony of Twitter for the collegiality of Instagram. “Instagram has a great community,” he says. “There’s less bullshit on it. It’s anecdotal, visual stories of what people are doing. Less discourse, less noise.”
Like many serendipitous partnerships of the past decade, Ben’s connection with Renoun Skis came through Instagram DMs. Ben joined Renoun as an athlete and photographer in 2019, a move that made sure he never missed a powder day again. “It’s so fun to work with clients like Renoun because it makes me want to get out and get those shots,” he says.
And get out he does. Skiing takes a front seat, of course, but Ben has an omnivorous appetite when it comes to outdoor activity. Exploring slot canyons, sketching Vermont color palettes, road biking along the backroads of upstate New York. For Ben, it’s all on the menu.
Ben Sarle has found his place – for now. As a creative and athlete, he’s constantly evolving, a living testament to the nonlinear pursuit of passion and career. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll all watch Ben through our TikTok VR glasses as he achieves his dream of skiing among Norway’s fjords. Until then, you can find him shredding at Stowe and sharing his photography on his website and on Instagram as @BenLens.