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Meet Tuckernuck Girl Gray Benko

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A Tuckernuck Girl inspires us with her zest for life, intelligence, unique sense of style, kindness, and talent. After a modeling contract led her to Japan, and studying Fine Arts and Photography at three major universities in New York City, Chicago, and South Carolina, Gray Benko has returned home to Charleston to turn her passion into a thriving photography business. Gray’s work has been featured in national ad campaigns, attracted high- profile clients, and earned her the fierce devotion of families whose memories she loves to document. Follow along as we spend a day at home with this Tuckernuck Girl.

From the time that I picked up my first camera, I knew that I wanted to be a professional photographer and, once I had children, it just made sense that owning my own company was what I needed to do.  I wanted to be able to make money, doing what I love, but stay home and raise my children at the same time.

I studied photography in college and went on to get my BFA from the The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I studied under other photographers for a while after college, but I decided it was time to strike out on my own when I became pregnant with my first child. I started off photographing children exclusively, but soon began photographing families as well. From there, I started doing commercial work and got my first “big break” when I landed our 3 month “Brothers and Sisters” campaign for Zara.

I am very lucky to have an amazing support system via wonderful friends and family. They are the type of people who are there for you, no matter what, no questions asked.  If I needed one, my mother (and probably my dad too) would legitimately hop in the car and drive 2 hours just give me a hug.

I started an instagram hashtag for my daughter Farris (#farrisdoesfaces) where she does insane makeup on the faces of the people in her life and, while you wouldn’t want to walk out of the house in it, some of it is pretty incredible and creative. She inspires me everyday in so many different ways.

WHAT QUALITIES DO YOU APPRECIATE THE MOST IN YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS?
I am very lucky to have an amazing support system via wonderful friends and family. They are the type of people who are there for you, no matter what, no questions asked.  If I needed one, my mother (and probably my dad too) would legitimately hop in the car and drive 2 hours just give me a hug.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE TRAVEL MOMENT?
I have been blessed to go on so many amazing vacations in my life, but one of my all time favorites was the time we rented a house boat on Lake Powell when I was 10 years old.  If you haven’t been, you can’t possibly imagine the majesty of this place.  A beautiful still lake surrounded by giant red clay canyons and rock formations as far as the eye can see.  It is truly awe inspiring.  We are headed back for another trip there this June and I could not be more excited!

WHAT IS YOUR MAIN FAULT?
I cannot make a decision to save my life.  It’s bad.  I literally made my sister choose my lunch for me today because I couldn’t handle the pressure.

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST STRENGTH?
I can’t decide.  
jk.  I just asked my sister, because I feel like that is a question better answered by someone close to you. According to her, it’s that I have a big heart and would do anything for the people I love.

WHAT IS YOUR IDEA OF HAPPINESS?
My 4 month old baby niece is smiling up at me right now and that is pretty magical so it’s hard to think past that at the moment.  Aside from that, I am at my happiest when I am surrounded by people that I love, as cliche as that might sound.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION FOR YOU HOME DECOR?
At the moment, I am actually getting a lot of inspiration from my instagram feed. From home decor, to fashion photography. I love seeing how different people, with different styles, decorate their homes and I am constantly inspired by the photographers in my feed and their use of color, movement and texture. One of my favorites at the moment is @jessechamberlinmarble.

FAVORITE FLOWER?
I forever love a peony.

WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE HEROINE IN FICTION?
Elizabeth Bennet

FAVORITE ARTIST/DESIGNER?
So my daughter, Farris, is sitting beside me and wants me to say that it’s her.  I kind of can’t disagree.  I started an instagram hashtag for her (#farrisdoesfaces) where she does insane makeup on the faces of the people in her life and, while you wouldn’t want to walk out of the house in it, some of it is pretty incredible and creative. She inspires me everyday in so many different ways.

FAVORITE MUSEUM?
The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art and The Gibbes Museum of Art are both great for contemporary art. The best historic house museum in Charleston is the Aiken-Rhett House, which is basically frozen in time from the mid-1800s. I’m not saying there are ghosts there, but there are ghosts there.

DO YOU HAVE CHILDREN?  IF SO, HOW MANY AND WHAT ARE THEIR NAMES?
I do!  My daughter, Farris, is 8 and my son, Charlie, is 5.

WHAT’S ON YOUR READING LIST RIGHT NOW?
I rarely have time to read anymore, sadly, but right now I am reading All the Light We Cannot See. It’s incredible and so beautifully written. 

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE ITEM THAT HAS BEEN PASSED DOWN TO YOU?
I recently found some little wooden puzzles, in a box containing a bunch of my dad’s childhood things, while helping to clean out my grandmother’s attic.  My grandparents bought them for my dad for his first Christmas.  My son loves to play with them and there is something so special about seeing him play with the same toys that my dad played with as a little boy.

DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE IN 3 WORDS.
Relaxed, colorful, eclectic.

WHO ARE YOUR STYLE ICONS?
Jane Birkin

WHAT’S ON YOUR SPRING BUCKET LIST?
To get as much traveling in as humanly possible.

DESCRIBE YOUR PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND.
I studied photography in college and went on to get my BFA from the The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I studied under other photographers for a while after college, but I decided it was time to strike out on my own when I became pregnant with my first child. I started off photographing children exclusively but soon began photographing families as well. From there, I started doing commercial work and got my first “big break” when I landed our 3 month “Brothers and Sisters” campaign for Zara.

WHY DID YOU START YOUR OWN COMPANY?
From the time that I picked up my first camera, I knew that I wanted to be a professional photographer and, once I had children, it just made sense that owning my own company was what I needed to do.  I wanted to be able to make money, doing what I love, but stay home and raise my children at the same time.

WHAT’S THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF OWNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
I would say the fact that I am always at work.  I work from home so I don’t have the option to "leave my work at the office”.

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