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A glimpse into the life of a freelance photographer

Concordia student Bri Lee continues to build her professional portfolio

Bri Lee studies a shot during a photoshoot in downtown Fargo. Photo by Sage Larson.

Swirls of blue, purple and green tangle around the supercilious, cobalt peacock as he ignores the clicks of the camera, the wisps of Fargo’s cool winter and the laughs from the photographer and her model.

With a little push from family and friends and a trip abroad, Concordia Junior Brianne “Bri” Lee gained the confidence and determination to pursue her career as a professional photographer and designer as an undergraduate, studying graphic design and English writing.


Spring semester freshman year, Bri decided to apply to study abroad.

“I was at that point where I needed to get out of here,” she said.

A year later, she flew over to Florence, Italy. It was in Italy that Bri took her first photography classes–digital and fashion photography. Not only did she learn more about her craft, she learned more about herself.

“When you’re abroad, it’s almost like you just don’t care as much,” Bri said. “You’re more willing to try things [because] you’re pushed so [far] out of your comfort zone. Because of that, it made me think, ‘Why can’t I do that?’”

She brought that mindset back to Moorhead. Through a connection with her father, Bri had the opportunity to capture photos of the creation of a short film for Grassfire Productions. After that, she collaborated with Experience Blur, Midwestival and the Online Communications and Marketing department at Concordia, where she has had opportunities to shoot photos for online articles and events like Orientation and Les Miserables.

Bri has grown up hearing the whirr and clicks of the camera. Her father, Ron Lee, has been a photographer for over 40 years. He started photographing professionally his senior year at Concordia, at American Crystal Sugar Company.

Ron and Bri took father-daughter trips throughout her childhood, and Ron would allow her to take photos with his camera.

“When we came back, and I saw her images…I was there too and I did not see that,’” Ron said. “It’s fun to see her out-shoot her old man.”

Bri believes these trips helped her fall in love with the craft. Ron sees it starting earlier.

Concordia junior Kayla Weber poses for her friend Bri. Weber has been modeling for the freelance photographer since they met freshman year. Photo by Sage Larson.

“It’s interesting to reflect,” Ron said. “When Bri was a baby, I used to sit her on my lap and we’d page through my Art History book from Concordia and other coffee-table photo books.”

To showcase her work to others, Bri posts her photos on social media.

“I’ve noticed that it has made a big difference,” Bri said. “I’m not afraid to show people what I can do. Before [Italy], I didn’t post or show what I did.”

That’s how she caught Midwestival’s attention. At Alley Fair, an event that showcases downtown Fargo’s culture, Bri took a picture and tagged Midwestival on Instagram. The online magazine started liking all her photos. Bri researched the company and found that they were in need of photographers. She reached out to them and within a month, she had her first assignment–photographing Fargo.

Recently, Bri’s graphic design professor Jeff Knight asked her to be a part of the Design Planning Committee for TEDx Fargo, an opportunity he only offered her and one other student.

Bri continues her impromptu trips with her dad when they can. She also does random photoshoots with her friends.

A frequent model for her shoots is Kayla Weber, her friend since freshman year. Their photoshoots started during freshman year when Weber’s parents asked for a photo of her for their Christmas card. Sophomore year, Bri and Weber tried a different twist on their usual shoots.

“It was more edgy instead of typical senior pictures,” Weber said. “It was a different feeling. A different vibe. It was more serious pictures.”

Two years later, the friends spend Saturday driving around Fargo to find an obscure location that challenges Bri’s creative thinking.

“The thing is, I’ve always been a Bri Lee fan,” Weber said. “Bri has always done natural photos, which I love. Also, her attitude is the best part. She was never cocky about it. She would never say, ‘Yeah, I’m good.’ She would say, ‘Yeah, I really enjoy it.’”

Turning towards the future, Bri would like to work in advertising or media focusing on magazines or social media.

“I want to be surrounded by creative people,” Bri said.

Ron sees her going in a similar direction.

“I could see her fitting well into a creative agency doing graphic design and photography,” Ron said. “Or running her own studio to do freelance photo work. I could even see her working as a photographer for a travel magazine to feed her passion of photography and wandering the world.”

Bri hopes one of her collaborations moves to something more. She’s waiting to see where they go.

“I’ve always been that person who had a plan, but now I’m letting things happen the way they do,” Bri said.

This article was submitted by Sage Larson.

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