CRIME

Local photographer Benally hopeful despite having equipment stolen

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON − Photographer Curtis Ray Benally has been a staple at sports and community events for nearly two decades, along with his trusty camera and assorted photography gear.

A great number of those items are now missing after they were reported stolen last week from a parking lot at the University of New Mexico's main campus in Albuquerque. The incident occurred in the late afternoon on Saturday, Sept. 24, between University Blvd, NE and Las Lomas Road NE.

Benally was in the middle of shooting a couple of events that day, including a football game at Milne Stadium featuring Piedra Vista High School, as well as a wedding and reception when a backpack containing multiple cameras and equipment was taken.

"The wedding was at the UNM Alumni Memorial Chapel and I thought I'd packed up everything into my vehicle, and by the time I discovered my bag missing was when I got to the reception site," Benally recalled. "I hastily went back to the campus parking lot and within that 30 to 45 minutes, the bag was gone."

After filing a report with the UNM Police Department, Benally has heard very little regarding the stolen equipment, valued at more than $12,000.

"That's just years of accumulating gear," Benally said. "This is something I've invested in over the years when I decided to travel this path of being a photographer about 12 years ago. Everything I get paid to do goes back into the business."

Photographer Curtis Ray Benally waiting in between baseball games at the Great Park, Irvine, CA, during the USA Premier Baseball's Firecracker Classic baseball tournament in July 2021.

The UNM Police Department did indicate that campus surveillance cameras shows a female person picking up the camera bag before driving off, but the cameras couldn't make out vehicle plate numbers.

Benally, who owns and operates Turkeyboy Photography, has covered several thousand sporting events in San Juan County, ranging from youth football to the Connie Mack World Series.

In addition to being on site for concerts, weddings and graduations throughout the region, Benally's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, and assorted publications around the world. His website, turkeyboyphotography.smugmug.com features much of the work he's done over the years.

"It just feels like a violation. We never anticipate these types of events in our lives and it's a part of the risk we all take," Benally said. "We take things for granted and no matter how vigilant we are, something from time to time happens in our lives."

While waiting to see if any or all of the stolen items wind up being put up for sale online or recovered by police, Benally has relied on the kindness of others to remain busy. He was back on the sidelines for a high school football game in Bayfield, Colo. last Friday night and at a girls soccer match at Farmington High School the following afternoon.

Benally is in the process of setting up a GoFundMe page in hopes of replacing some, if not all, of the missing equipment.

"I'm trying to be patient and I'm stubborn, so the fundraising is kind of the last resort," Benally said. "I'm still hoping the person who picked up the bag has the conscience to do the right thing and turn it in someplace. I'm crossing my fingers. But at the same time, maybe this person will pursue a photography career and maybe this helped in that process."

If you have any information regarding the stolen equipment, you can contact the UNM Police Department by calling (505) 277-2241 or by visiting their website at police.unm.edu.