Yorkton photographer Brittany Brenzen decided she wanted to expand her horizons so this winter, she bought a ticket to Costa Rica, quit her job at Harvest Meats, packed a backpack and set off for three months in Central America.
“One of my [photography teachers, Craig, said usually when people graduate they start working right away,” she recalled. “He said, it’s best to go off for a year or two and build on what you’ve learnt and [work on] your skills, so I decided to just go. I’ve lived in Saskatchewan my entire life basically. I’ve seen what it has to offer and I wanted to see something else.”
Brenzen studied at Winnipeg’s PrairieView School of Photography in 2012-2013 majoring in landscapes. While there, she also pursued her passion for photographing live music events. That led to freelance gigs with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Winnipeg Jets.
And, of course, she has done the obligatory Grad sessions and weddings
She said travelling in Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua taught her “to be a lot more open.”
“Before I didn’t do a whole lot of portraits and I didn’t really interact with people when I was taking my photos, it was just landscapes,” she explained. “When you’re travelling by yourself, you get a little lonely so you’re, like, ‘okay, now I have to interact with people’; it’s just human nature so I think it really taught me to be more open, to be able to start a conversation with anybody.”
As an exercise in portfolio building she feels like she accomplished something.
“I think I really expanded on my street photography and my black and white stuff,” she said. “Primarily, before I left I was a landscape photographer. I had lots of landscapes from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, but now I have mountains and volcanoes and waterfalls.”
Some of those Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario photos were the subject of a Godfrey Dean Gallery exhibition in the fall of 2013.
Brenzen also feels pretty good about the progress she made in some other areas.
“I was trying to work more on people, a different kind of style called the “decisive moment” style,” she said. “I tried and I think I succeeded in some, but it’s all trial and error.”
She said feedback to her travel blog from some former classmates and teachers was largely positive that she was growing as a photographer.
The trip was also an eye-opener in terms of social and economic realities.
“We’re a very safe country, safety is our main concern,” she said. “In central America safety is not really the top priority. You’ll see little one-year-old, two-year-old kids riding around on motorcycles with two other people on the back and no one’s wearing helmets.”
And she got to see poverty up close and personal.
“Nicaragua was by far the poorest place I was in and people weren’t wearing shoes, they barely had any clothes, there was lots of people living on the streets,” she said. “It was like they were stuck in the past, they had horse and buggies and they rode horses for transportation and they just sold things out of their pockets. It’s a really different way of life for sure.”
Arriving home last week, Brenzen really hasn’t had time plan the next move, but she’s hoping she can resume her travels in the next few months.
Quebec, Germany and Ireland top her list of possible destinations, largely because she has work exchange prospects there.
As for the ultimate professional goal, the world is her oyster.
“Originally I wanted to be a war photographer, I wanted to go out and see the world,” she said. “Now I’m leaning towards documentary, but also, I want to see if I can get into film too, but that’s a totally different scenario.”