Photographer living his dream

By Katy Nielsen

It was a lifelong passion that became a career for Columbia alumnus Scott R. Brandush. As a staff photographer at the Crown Point Star, the sister paper of Northwest Indiana’s Post-Tribune, he received recognition for his work after entering his first photography contest.

Brandush, 29, took home six awards—and was a finalist for photo of the year—at the Hoosier State Press Association Better Newspaper Contest awards banquet held at the Indiana Convention Center on Dec. 4.

He graduated from Columbia in 2003 with a photography degree, and was a dedicated student who said he commuted from Lowell, Ind., two hours by train every day he had class.

“A camera was the first thing he ever asked for as a kid for Christmas,” said  his mother, Susan Brandush-Denny.

Brandush would take his camera everywhere and photograph everything around him. When he realized he wanted to make photography his career, Columbia seemed like a natural fit, Brandush-Denny said.

It was Columbia Artist-in-Residence John H. White who made a profound impression on Brandush, ultimately influencing his career path. After taking a course taught by White, Brandush knew he wanted to be a photojournalist.

“He was my inspiration, he molded me as a photographer,” Brandush said. “He was the best teacher I ever had in my entire life.”

Elizabether Chilsen, academic manager of the Photography Department and curator of Manifest, said it is the high standards Columbia sets for its students that distinguishes it from other institutions.

“It’s really through making the work that students learn the medium and profession,” Chilsen said.

Brandush said he attributes his success largely to Columbia. His education at the college gave him the chance to discover himself as an artist.

“Everything he knows he learned at Columbia,” Brandush-Denny said. “I’m so excited for Scott.”

For Brandush, the joy of his job is hearing people’s stories, getting an inside look at their lives and having the opportunity to express himself creatively.

“I love meeting people … from different walks of life,” Brandush said. “Every day is different, every assignment is different and I love photography, which is a bonus.”

Brandush covers high school sports—everything from swimming to baseball, football and basketball. He said shooting sports allows him to be creative because they provide opportunities for a photographer to capture interesting visual moments.

“It’s about timing,” Brandush said. “The more you do it, the better you get at it.”

Brandush received first place for best action photo and general news photo, second place for best sports action photo and best sports feature photo. He was also a finalist for photo of the year and finished third for best multiple group photo and best spot news photo.

His job is not always easy, especially when he is assigned to tragic events.

“My photos are never more important than the person I am photographing,” Brandush said. “I try to sympathize with the person, but at the same time, I have to do my job.”

He said getting his current position at the Crown Point Star took several years of perseverance.

For photojournalism students, Brandush said “Don’t get discouraged, jobs are hard to find in this field … but the more you shoot, the better you’ll get.”