Click HERE for Part 2 of Brooke's Artists to Know Interview!
This month I am absolutely thrilled to introduce you to our latest Artist to Know: Brooke Shaden, of Brooke Shaden Photography. If you read my blog regularly, you may remember a post I made back in December, Your New Favorite Artist, where I gushed about how inspired I was by her work and by her honesty. In addition to being a fine art photographer, Brooke is also an educator. Perhaps you've heard of her website Promoting Passion? Where she started a series of youtube videos full of inspiration, advice, and the incredible process behind her pieces, which she posted every week for ONE HUNDRED weeks in a row. Yes, 100 videos. Oh and by the way, she helped start a self-sustaining school and studio in Kolkata, India for survivors of human trafficking. Her work has inspired the likes of film director, producer & actor Ron Howard and been exhibited alongside household names such as John Baldessari. In 2014 she was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential Photographers of 2014 by Shutter Magazine. Aaaaand she's not even 30 years old. To say I'm happy she took the time to graciously do this interview with me is an understatement. So without further ado, allow me to introduce you to one of the sweetest creatives I've had the pleasure of interviewing, a woman who embraces darkness and creates beauty from it's mystery, the talented Brooke Shaden:
How would you describe your photography style?
My style is both dark and whimsical, with a deep focus on the self and the emotions that go with that. Storytelling is also key to my process.
What is the driving force behind your photography, what keeps you motivated?
I am drawn to creating exactly what is in my imagination with the hope that it inspires others to do the same…to say that our imaginations are worth making a reality.
If you could tell the world one thing with your art, what would it be?
That there is beauty in darkness.
Where is the place you feel most inspired, why?
I feel most inspired by the forest. I have always felt a deep connection to the earth and feel most alive when I'm in a forest.
How much time do you spend viewing other artists' work? Favorite photographers?
I spend almost no time looking at outside inspiration, though there are certain artists that I admire greatly and check in about once a month to see what new work they are putting out. I love artists like Tom Chambers, Gregory Crewdson, Jamie Baldridge, Julia Fullerton-Batten, and Samantha Geballe.
What drew you to self portraits?
It started because I wanted full control over my images, and I was too painfully shy to ask anyone to step in front of my camera. I began realizing how interesting it is to be in front of the camera you are operating, to become a character both separate of yourself yet also imagined by yourself. It can make you feel powerful in ways you've never felt, and vulnerable as well.
I love that in addition to being a photographer, you are also such a great video blogger! What inspired you to start video blogging?
I have always loved writing a blog, but I felt as though I wanted to connect more personally to people. Being a visual artist, it only made sense to create video content that I could share with anyone willing to watch. I've created over 130 videos so far and I love it!
What music/books/movies have inspired you the most?
Books - the Dune series by Frank Herbert. In fact, I have a famous quote from that book tattooed on my arm. It says "Fear is the mind killer." Other favorites - Pan's Labyrinth directed by Guillermo Del Toro and cinematography by Guillermo Navarro. I'm a sucker for TV shows like Doctor Who, Firefly, Game of Thrones, etc.
Inspiring others – I read that Ron Howard was inspired by your photograph “Running from Wind” for his and Bryce Dallas Howard’s film “Imagin8ion” – how did that come about?
Indeed! I entered a contest that was being put on by Canon and was miraculously chosen as one of 8 winners to inspire their short film. It was an incredible experience, very surreal, as the 8 of us walked down a red carpet with them. Definitely a pinch me moment! They chose the winners not necessarily based on photographic skill but on how well they illustrated a story.
What is your favorite camera to use?
I'm not sure that I have a favorite to be honest. I started with a Nikon D80 and loved it. I eventually got a Canon 5d mkii and loved that as well. I just (and I mean JUST…haven't even taken a shot with it yet) got a Sony A7ii. I love any camera that will take a decent picture!
Do you prefer to work with film or digital? Do you have a dark room?
I work digitally but went to filmmaking school where I learned how to use motion picture film - Super 8, 16mm, and 35mm.
What is your favorite photo editing software?
I use Photoshop for everything but turn to GIMP when I need a quick/free fix!
You wear some of the most beautiful dresses I’ve ever seen in your work- where do you find the costumes for your shoots?
I find them mostly in Los Angeles when I visit, but in any city I travel to I visit vintage or thrift stores to find the best costumes. I always look for something simple, with no pattern, and that I can't easily place in a time period.
I think Bravery belongs in this materials category – please share how you have so much of it! You go after your dreams so beautifully and passionately, what gives you the courage to jump into a freezing lake, start a photography school in India, host a convention and so many other amazing things?
Aw thank you! That is super sweet! Bravery is indeed one of my favorite tools. It is the most necessary one I think. I've made a lot of mistakes in my images and my career, and I always make sure I do it publicly so that others will feel okay to fail as well. I think once you start putting yourself out there in such a vulnerable way, you begin to take risks that you never thought possible. Suddenly nothing is embarrassing. It is nervewracking, and I do stress over these things a lot. Take my convention for example - I almost cancelled it 3 times because I thought no one would come. I worry a lot. But I also love a lot, and have faith in myself. I am always telling people I have blind faith in nothing but myself, because if I can't trust who I am, how could I ever put trust in anything else?
Brooke Shaden Photography
What events lead up to you deciding to have a career in photography?
I went to college at Temple University and majored in filmmaking and English, with a minor in creative writing. I loved storytelling but by the end of my schooling I found that I wasn't loving the process of collaborating so much. I picked my camera up immediately after graduating and photography quickly turned into something I was very passionate about. I worked as a receptionist and then a legal assistant for a year before I decided that I needed to pursue what made me truly happy, and so I dove in full time after that.
I read that you were the youngest photographer featured in the Annenberg Space for Photography (amazing!!), a space that has featured the likes of household name artists including John Baldessari – describe what that experience was like for you.
Indeed! I count myself very fortunate for that experience. It was a very interesting experience, because I felt entirely out of place, like an imposter putting my work on the walls literally right next to Jerry Uelsmann, one of my photographic heroes. And at the same time, I try to trust in other people's opinions, and I was enjoying myself immensely in creating what I was putting out, so I went along with the experience with my mouth wide open in disbelief. I think that is the best way to see the world…always in wonder and awe! It was an awesome time, to be part of their documentary and to speak with the other exhibitors. I'll never forget it.
Describe an average work day. Do you have a routine or is every day different?
I'm such a routine person! I wake up between 5-6am most days, drink a liter of water, and sit down to answer emails after I stretch. Once I finish with emails I jump on social media and create a post, either directly on socials or to my blog. I take the rest of the morning to sort through business, doing anything from writing contracts to proposals to planning events. I usually burn out by noon so that is when I start thinking creatively about what I want to create, either working on a project, editing a photo, or exploring for a photo shoot. I always reserve the evening for cooking and family time. I am very invested in personal time and think it is paramount to staying inspired. I do travel a lot, so when I'm on the road I can't say what my schedule is, but I always start each day with a little guided daydream, water, and stretching, and it helps me feel normal.
Thanks to Brooke's generosity in sharing so many details of her inspirations, materials, business & personal life I thought it best to divide this interview into two parts! Today's focus was on her inspiration and materials, with a touch of business - Monday we'll get to hear the inner workings of Brooke Shaden Photography, more details on the self-sustaining school, The Light Room, in Kolkata as well as the more personal things like how she handles criticism and how she finds life/work balance.
Thank you so much for reading and please be sure to check out Brooke's:
Click HERE for Part 2 of Brooke's Artists to Know Interview!
Liked learning about Brooke? Read about More Artists to Know!
Hi friends! Welcome to the blog! I'm Mandy and I'm an artist, blogger & founder of the "Artists to Know" interview series. Here you'll find photos of my latest art adventures, furniture makeover projects & advice from successful artists!
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