WKU freshman showcases passion for photography with Instagram challenge


Kennedy Gott

Brett Phelps, a freshman at Western Kentucky University, poses with his photography equipment on March 10, 2022.

Lucy Rutherford, News Reporter

If you ask Brett Phelps about photography, one thing quickly becomes clear: he has passion.

“I love it,” Phelps said. “I eat, sleep, breathe it.”

He studies the light on the back wall while reminiscing about the opportunities photography has given him. Which, for the Western Kentucky University freshman, is many.

“I got started in videography first, my older brother started doing weddings and I started going along with him and it just kept taking off from there,” Phelps said. “During high school, I was asked to do a project for our vocational school. I created a little video advertisement for them. I ended up getting a job based off of that working for our school system, where I had to create a bunch of promotional advertisements specifically for our workforce department that helps to pair students with co-op jobs.”

Phelps was given his own office and the chance to travel wherever students in the program were placed: factories, schools, offices. His time at Western Kentucky University began after WKU professor James Kenney noticed his work and recruited Phelps to come study photojournalism on the Hill.

But Phelps’ love for photography isn’t just something he accesses for work or his college major. It’s a part of his everyday life.

“Most of the time, I will be carrying around the camera with me,” Phelps said. “I’ll just go ahead and I’ll [take] the photograph. I’m always looking for one. I’m always looking at what light just attracts me — we have beautiful sunsets here. But I’m always looking to see if I were photographing this, ‘how would I make this visually interesting? How would that make this appeal to people?’”

While innate ability has played a role in his success, so has practice. Working for his school district was one such method he used to hone his skills, but so was another project that he started in 2021.

Phelps decided to challenge himself in a unique way. He set a goal for himself to post a new photo on Instagram each day for an entire year on an account he named Brett365. His project is more than a reflection of his photography; It’s a time capsule of nearly a year of his, and others, precious life moments.

A silhouetted portrait of a father and son at the Nelson County Fair; A black and white shot of a man hosing off a horse; A lone figure on stage at the Bardstown Country Jam.

Not only was Phelps able to preserve his view of the world, he was also able to document the lives of others in a visually striking manner.

“Pretty much the ultimate goal was to be able to improve my creativity skills simply with photography [and] videography,” Phelps said. “Practice every day helps me realize, ‘okay, what am I doing wrong? What am I doing right?’”

He began to post less and less once he started college, having to adjust to a new life on campus. The project had to be put on hold until he got his bearings. His account went inactive, but his camera was as alive as ever.

“I didn’t stop shooting, that’s an important part,” Phelps said. “I just stopped posting. Now my plan is to get back to posting. Maybe not every day, but I would like to go back and continue to share my work and the progress I’m making.”

He has begun to do just that. But whether he posts his work or not, one thing is for certain: Phelps’ knack for photography is a gift that will take him far.

News Reporter Lucy Rutherford can be reached at [email protected].