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Photographer Claire Brickson: The Energy of a ‘Collaborative’ Photoshoot

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Claire Brickson/Instagram
By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times

Taking photos, at first, was simply something to keep busy during political campaign events for Claire Brickson, but she soon found a new passion.

Brickson, known for her work in with Doug Jones’ successful run for U.S. Senate in 2018, also served as communications director for Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin in his 2021 reelection campaign.

“I kind of had to take on the role of social [media] and digital director…so I just started shooting more on my phone. [During events,] I was just standing there, running a social media. There’s something cute going on, let me take a photo, but then I just found that I enjoyed that so much more than doing the press-handling stuff,” she said.

Since then, Brickson, 27, has put together a portfolio shooting the city’s nightlife, including dance partiers La Calle and the former comedy-variety show Laugh Garden, as well as individual clients. Perhaps her biggest get yet is shooting The World Games 2022 initially as a volunteer.

“That was when I really fell all the way in love. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is the most fun I’ve ever had taking photos at sporting events,'” Brickson said.

While she first started with TWG after being invited on to volunteer with the Games’ social media team by former Woodfin campaign intern Rylen Dempsey, Brickson said she also got an all-access pass to events and was hired to take photos during the wushu games, which are a form of Chinese martial arts.

Shooting the city’s nightlife, however, has been Brickson’s favorite, she said. Taking photos during a set from someone like local DJ Andrea Really during a performance at Saturn turns the photography into something more “collaborative” as opposed to painting which was too “solitary,” Brickson said.

“I do really love the nightclub stuff with my friends, especially folks like Andrea and people who really see these performances as an art form…[With] photography, it’s like I have to go outside. It’s such a collaborative form. It doesn’t work without other people who are also engaging with me.”

Claire Brickson. (Joe Songer, For The Birmingham Times)

Currently, Brickson shoots on a Nikon Z6 II, a mirrorless model she bought for herself to shoot TWG, but plans on moving to a Sony mirrorless sometime soon. While cellphone photography is still “valid,” there are benefits to hiring a professional, including equipment cost, said Brickson.

“When you’re hiring a photographer, you’re also in essence renting that equipment that they own, which is so expensive and requires such an upfront cost. It’s part of why it costs so much to get a photographer,” said Brickson, adding that without a professional, special moments are more likely to go either undocumented or poorly captured.

“Having someone [at an event] who’s designated to take photos and has invested in themselves, in developing their eye and figuring out how to make sure they don’t have that moment of like, ‘Oh, shoot, I just missed what would have been a really good photo.’ We’ve practiced to where we hopefully have fewer of those instances,” Brickson said.

In taking more headshots, she’s also found that a photographer can play a large role in the sort of emotion a subject might display.

“Another reason I really enjoy doing more photography is that there is so much practice to the energy that the photographer brings, and the vibe that they bring into the room…If I’m a little stressed or anxious, then the other person can feel that and then they can reflect that back, and then that’s what shows up in the photo,” Brickson said.

Bringing good emotional energy to a photoshoot is the “real value” of a professional but being able to do so is a skill that must be worked toward, she said.

“I have to really practice being able to take a deep breath and ground myself and bring a good energy into the room so that the person I’m shooting also feels comfortable, confident, like this is gonna be a great photo.

Still, Brickson takes quick photos of her pets, friends, and sometimes, herself. Regardless of equipment or experience, everyone should give photography a shot, she said.

“I would just encourage anyone who’s interested in it to get into it because it’s been super fun, and to not feel like you have to wait until you have an expensive piece of equipment to start shooting…If you enjoy it, that’s all that matters,” Brickson said.

Claire Brickson’s work can be found at https://clairebrickson.com or on her Instagram page: @hennessey_claire.