Brennan Elliott, a member of the Chambersburg Area Senior High School class of 2009, asked his parents Warren and Donna Elliott for a camera last Christmas.
The camera was to serve a practical purpose – to take photographs and shoot videos for Stereobreed Media Studios in Chambersburg, where he is employed.
Elliott uses the name Brennan Pierson professionally, because an actor already uses the name Brennan Elliott, he said.
When he opened his present, he had no idea it would enable him to meet celebrity artists like Gavin DeGraw, Justin Bieber and Jason Derulo during the Billboard awards in Las Vegas in May.
“I started really taking photos when I got my cell phone at 14. I’d take and send photos,” said Pierson, now 21. “But, now that I have this camera my pictures have blossomed in quality.”
For the Billboard contest, he took a candid photo of two female friends in the Brillobox in Pittsburgh, but didn’t expect anything to happen.
“I never thought I’d win because there were about 2,000 people that entered,” he said.
But, the first time was the charm – because he won the contest.
“This is the first photo contest I’ve entered,” he said.
Billboard emailed Pierson that he was one of two winners who won round-trip tickets for two to Las Vegas, tickets to the awards show, a new Sony camera and a personal photography lesson with celebrated photographer Matthew Jordan Smith.
“It was like an exciting and great 48-hour dream,” Pierson said.
Pierson was to stand on the red carpet taking candid shots of the artists with Billboard’s fashion editor.
“I was just surprised at the regularity of everything, because when you see everything on TV it all seems so out of reach,” he said. “But being right there, you were so close you could see the pimples on their face and (you realize) they are real people, too.”
Not only does he have once-in-a-lifetime memories of the evening, but he also has photos for his portfolio.
He graduates from Duquesne University this year with a degree in music therapy and classical guitar.
But, his skills as a shutterbug might have launched his career in a different direction.
He’s using his camera to get his foot in the door for his music.
“You can offer a service to someone (musician), and if they like what I do with the photos then maybe they’ll find my music; or we can work together on music – it’s just a good way to network,” Pierson said.
This summer he’s spending his time shooting videos for Choo Jackson, who recently signed with Mac Miller, an international artist.
In just two weeks, “the video I shot for Choo reached 20,000 views,” Pierson said.
His parents’ Christmas gift has taken their son down a different musical path, but that’s fine with them.
“He’s always been very creative and this is just another outlet for him,” Pierson’s mother, Donna, said Sunday. “No matter what he does, we support him.”
For Pierson, whether he walks the red carpet as a bona fide artist (in the future) or helps someone with music therapy, he can’t go wrong.
“I just really like to make other people happy, and I can do that with music therapy or performing,” Pierson said.