Brennan started his freshman year as a music student, but soon realized it wasn't his calling. Coming from an arts school with a visual arts program, he had been exposed to photography already. He took senior photos on the side, but hadn't considered it as a field of study.
"I initially joined the photo program kind of by default," he said. He had an interest in photography, so he thought, "I want to do that, so I'll just switch my major and try that for a while. It seemed pretty cool."
His first photography class was a darkroom class, but with darkroom experience from high school, he didn't feel challenged. It was then that his professor instructed him to challenge himself by no longer taking photos of people, which he says changed his world view.
Brennan said one reason he enjoys the photography program so much is the supportive and welcoming environment. Even when he was still early in the program, he felt that his work was taken seriously and that the professors supported and believed in him.
He felt this support from his fellow students as well. In his program, students take the same classes and end up spending most of the week together. Brennan said his cohort is very tight-knit, which allows for productive and respectful conversations when the students critique each other's work.
"It's important to have that sense of community, because it only enhances how intimately they know your work, and can make it better with you," he said.
Photography was a new way of thinking and seeing things, and it was a new way of experiencing everything around me. That changed my whole world view.
Beyond the darkroom
Once Brennan found a major that suited him, it was easy to find extracurricular activities to get involved in. During his sophomore year he joined the staff of the student-run magazine, Garnet & Black, which helped him grow in his major.
"Then," he said, "I accidentally became the editor-in-chief."
Being in charge of filling 224 blank pages was a huge opportunity for Brennan, which he immediately embraced. Looking back on his previous two years with the magazine, he saw areas that needed improvement. With a goal of making the magazine more collaborative, he worked to create more opportunities for students, which led to creating 12 new positions.
"It was about bringing voices together, which is something I really knew about because I had planned exhibitions for the photography program," Brennan said.
A defining moment occurred when he decided to publish a controversial cover because he felt it was an important story that needed to be told. When he was met with support from the community and told that he made people change their views, he said he found meaning and purpose.
Now, with four published magazines under his belt, Brennan has gained valuable experiences—like
leading a staff of 30 peers—that he can put to use in the future.
Preparing for a career
Throughout his college career, Brennan's experiences have helped him plan and prepare for his future. His work ethic has improved by regularly spending hours in the studio working, which is something he believes people aren't always aware of.
"A lot of people think artists don't put in work, but that couldn't be more false," he said.
He was encouraged by a professor to attend a portfolio review event, where he met a curator who included his work at the BOOM Festival in Charlotte, North Carolina. His work has been shown in multiple shows both on and off campus, and he has even won a review prize for his work.
Within the photography program, Brennan has set up multiple shows with a team. He says this experience gave him the confidence to pursue an internship at an art gallery, where he curated a show with fellow photography students. Now, he works with Indie Grits Labs and will curate a show with them in the future.
After graduating, Brennan hopes to travel to work with an agency. Ultimately, he plans to get his Master of Fine Arts and become a professor.
"I want to teach," he said. "I want to do for other people what art did for me."
I am South Carolina.