Advice for Journalists: Tom Brenner

Photojournalist Tom Brenner almost quit photography. Now, Brenner works as a freelance photographer for The New York Times, Getty, NPR and other publications.Photojournalist Tom Brenner almost quit photography. Now, Brenner works as a freelance photographer for The New York Times, Getty, NPR and other publications.

 

After Brenner graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2016, located in Rochester, New York, with a bachelor’s degree in photojournalism, he moved to Michigan for a job opportunity. He said, “I really don’t want to go home with my tail between my legs to my parents and be like I couldn’t find a job,” but he added, “I hated life in western Michigan...I had nothing.”

After spending time in Michigan, Brenner decided to leave. In Michigan, Brenner said he felt isolated and did not have a strong network of friends. He said, “this is the first time something I love is not worth it and maybe this is the writing on the wall so I went home and was like I’m going to enroll in the fire academy and be done with it.”

Brenner then landed an internship with the New York Times in Washington, D.C. where he covered politics and the White House. Now, Brenner works as a freelance photographer while continuing to cover politics.

Tom BrennerTom Brenner/Twitter​

Speaking to two classes of University of Maryland journalism students, Brenner shared his experiences with his career path and shared how students can be successful in photojournalism.

Brenner says he’s done “over 100 trips.” Some of these trips include flying with President Donald Trump on Air Force One, flying to Switzerland to cover Trump, and covering events in the White House and around the country.

Many of the events Brenner covers have other photojournalists covering the same story. When trying to be creative and get competitive shots, Brenner says “having 20 people there is a blessing and a burden.”

When in a slump Brenner said that he turns to the past work of others, saying “with technology these days you can just look up what everybody has done,” and he says this usually provides him with creative inspiration.

Cody Wilcox, a journalism student, said, “Brenner's work was incredible. With political figures always in the spotlight, his work was an interesting look behind the scenes. In a field that focuses on creativity, he sure does a great job of giving a unique perspective to the most common things.”

Brenner advised students to always have something to pitch and added, “always have something personal to work on...something that sets you apart. When I'm looking at your work, if I want to hire you, I want to not see necessarily what you’re capable of doing best, but what makes you, you.”