Brooklynn Jarvis Kelson remembers the moment Elder Jeffrey R. Holland greeted her as he was leaving the Marriott Center after speaking at a BYU devotional. Kelson, a student photographer who was assigned to take photos of the event, was standing in the tunnel, camera in hand, when the Apostle smiled at her and asked her how she was doing.
“As the photographer I don’t approach General Authorities, but I had been wanting and praying for the chance to meet him,” she recalls. “It was really cool and there is no way I would have had that experience if I wasn’t there as a photographer.”
It’s one of many special moments Kelson has witnessed as a student employee for BYU Photo. Now a senior in BYU’s photography program, Kelson was recently named Student Photographer of the Year by the University Photographers' Association of America at the annual UPAA symposium in South Bend, Indiana.
“I was really grateful to be recognized, it was a little overwhelming because as I walked up to accept the award, they gave me a standing ovation,” she said. “It felt really special to have others appreciate my work.”
As part of the symposium, she taught a breakout session with BYU’s director of photography, Jaren Wilkey; and had the chance to network with a host of professionals in the industry.
“Brooklynn has grown so much in the time in which she has worked at BYU Photo. The practical experience that she has gained as a student photographer has really paid off,” said Wilkey. “Two years ago, she didn’t know how to use studio lights. Two weeks ago, she helped teach a studio lighting workshop to dozens of full-time professional photographers.”
But Kelson didn’t start college intending to become a photographer. “My first year of college I studied music,” she recalls. Still, an undeniable prompting to pick up a camera couldn’t be ignored.
Following the impression to study photography was the best decision she could’ve made, she says. After applying to the BYU Photo position after a suggestion from a supervisor at BYUtv, Kelson has spent the past two and a half years under the tutelage of award-winning university photographers Wilkey and Nate Edwards. She’s been trusted with hands-on opportunities to photograph major university events, devotionals, and athletic contests.
“It is one of my greatest joys to see our students gain confidence in themselves and their work,” said Edwards. “This is a testimony to Brooklynn’s work ethic, desire to learn, and the time she has dedicated to improving her skills and education.”
“It’s grown my love for BYU to a very deep level. There are so many moments where I’ve seen why Heavenly Father wanted me to come here and I’m really grateful I did because BYU Photo is the best job I’ve ever had, and Jaren and Nate are the best mentors I’ve ever had."
Kelson, who is set to graduate in 2024, says it’s a satisfying feeling to see her photos used across BYU websites or in other university publications; and she’s grateful for the experiences she’s had at BYU that have prepared her to lead, serve, and lift.
“It’s grown my love for BYU to a very deep level,” she said. “There are so many moments where I’ve seen why Heavenly Father wanted me to come here and I’m really grateful I did because BYU Photo is the best job I’ve ever had, and Jaren and Nate are the best mentors I’ve ever had. I’ve been blessed to do what I love and that’s a really special thing.”
To view more award-winning photos from the BYU Photo team, click here.