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Life Imitates Art: Design Graduate Brinnan Schill Reflects on BYU, Photography

Schill — a South Carolina native — will graduate with a BFA in photography and a BA in sociocultural anthropology on April 24, 2020

Brinnan Schill has always been intrigued by human culture. So intrigued, in fact, that she decided to pursue a degree in anthropology at BYU. But as much as she loved anthropology, Schill couldn’t seem to let go of her artistic side, and her mind kept coming back to photography. Eventually, she decided to blend both passions and applied for a double major in photography and anthropology. “I'm drawn to the storytelling elements of photography,” said Schill. “And while I started off not knowing what I would do with a double major, it has been a huge asset in both accessing my artistic self and fueling my fascination with human culture and behavior. “ In addition to feeding her curiosity about human nature, Schill says her studies have taught her a lot about her own life and behavior. Photography in particular has helped her learn how to let go of perfectionism and be open to making mistakes. “One of my favorite photographic processes is the tintype,” Schill said. “When photographing tintypes, there's no chance for Photoshop or hiding errors. It can be a frustrating process with so many variables at play, and some days you just can't get the chemicals to cooperate. You have to learn to shrug off the mistakes and continue moving forward. When you finally do make the image you envisioned, it is all the more rewarding!” Rolling with the punches and learning as she goes has been a theme in Schill’s photographic career.In one instance during her BFA capstone project in northern Greenland, she and another student were traveling by dog sled to a remote settlement when their musher lost control of the dog team.

“We ended up sitting on a sled for hours in the middle of the arctic fjord, surrounded on all sides by miles and miles of ice,” said Schill. “Eventually help came and we were able to return safely, but it was definitely one of the most memorable experiences I've had as a student at BYU.” Learning to go with the flow and accept imperfections in her art has made Schill more resilient in other areas of life as well. “Sometimes things don't work out,” she said. “Sometimes plans change and you have to adapt and realize that other opportunities will open for you.” Schill encourages new photography students to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way, especially the abundant resources available through the university. “I'm immensely grateful for all the funding I received at BYU, both through the anthropology program and through the photography program,” she said. “Those independent projects and field studies helped me grow tremendously as a photographer.” Schill hopes to build on the skills she’s gained at BYU as she pursues a master’s degree in visual anthropology. Her latest project — a series of documentary portraits — will be on display in the Harold B. Lee Library this fall.


What did you want to be when you grew up? “I always wanted to be an author! I was a bookworm and loved reading and attending writing workshops. My plan was to either be a famous author or a pastry chef.” What was your favorite class that you took at BYU? Either Polynesian Dance or Water Aerobics. I also loved Humanities of Islam. I had a habit of taking random classes that I thought sounded interesting, which is probably why it took me so long to graduate!” Is there a specific work or artist in your field that has had a particularly strong influence on you? I have a minor in art history, and through studying the work of Baroque painters I have developed an intense appreciation for the work of Caravaggio. Like him, I love using dramatic lighting and busy compositions that draw the viewer in while still maintaining a careful sense of balance.” Do you have a hobby outside of what you do for your major? “I love baking and backpacking! I grew up baking sweets with my mom and grandma and worked at the Grand Canyon as a baker for a summer, where I could bake all morning and then go off to hike and explore for the rest of the day. Hiking is a great way to unplug and de-stress when I'm feeling overwhelmed with projects.” What is your favorite snack for between classes? Blue Diamond salt and vinegar almonds!”