Brooke Shaden: Surreal Photography With A Whimsical Twist

Brooke Shaden Photography

Brooke Shaden is a fine art photographer. She lives and works in the Los Angeles area. Her passion lies in creating new worlds through photographs. Her vision extends beyond the realm of the camera, creating images that resemble paintings and speak of an era that is not our own. She told us that each image is a story. And we are very happy that we had a chance to take an interview with Brook Shaden who shared her story with us about her photography and approach to it. Enjoy reading!

AP: Brooke, tell us about your first photos. What did they look like?

BS: I’ve always had a lot of ideas but never quite hit that right medium where it all came together and I could bring them to life. I started out writing anything I could, but mostly poetry. I had a lot of abstract stories to tell that were highly visual yet made no real sense. From there I picked up film making, which I majored in for college along with English. Film making provided a wonderful visual outlet, but I found that it took too long for my taste to tell a story, and I had a lot of stories to tell. It was then, just after graduating from college in December 2008, that I picked up my still camera. I was 21 years old. I finally found a medium that would allow me to create many different stories in shorter periods of time, while also giving the freedom of working individually instead of in a group on a film set.

My first pictures were self-portraits and were straight from my imagination. They were what was pent up for so long. I remember creating a clone shot where I placed myself in the frame twice. I had one girl handing her spirit to the other, as if passing on to another life. Even though it was challenging, I loved the task of figuring out how to bring my ideas to life.

Brooke Shaden Photography

AP: Where did you gain skills to take such beautiful pictures?

BS: I am self-taught in the field of photography, though I credit my film background with giving me a solid foundation of the technical aspects of photography. I was taught basic lighting and camera terminology like aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc. In a way I think it better helped me understand the technical aspects because of working with film. ISO wasn’t some abstract concept, it was practically applied to the film I was handing in school. I’m a very hands-on learner so that was helpful. When I picked up photography I started playing around in Photoshop and working out logically how to make things happen. I tried to use common sense as much as possible. I went in with the mindset that if someone can do it, I can do it, too.

AP: What genre are your photos?

BS: I would classify my work as fine art photography, but within that category there are certain words that come to mind to describe what I do. I create surreal photography with a whimsical twist. I create dark art, but with hints of beauty. When I began photography I already had ideas in my mind, so the genre of art that I create is fundamentally what I am most interested in. I never tried any other form of photography but instead jumped right into fine art, creating personal work that excited me.

AP: How would you describe your photos?

BS: My images are dark but in everything that I do, I try to infuse it with beauty and a timelessness that transports the viewer to another world. I try to be a creator of worlds more so than a photographer. My images are unusual in the sense that they defy the laws of our world. In my photographs, people can fly and float, or lay dead in a perfectly beautiful scene. Anything is possible, and so I create the most unique worlds that I can muster. They come straight from my imagination.

Brooke Shaden Photography

AP: What kind of equipment and techniques do you use to create your pictures?

BS: The camera that I have used for the last few months has been the Canon 5d mkii, and before that I used the Nikon D80. I always use a 50mm lens, except for when I do under water work, in which case I use a 24mm. I use a tripod and a remote, but sometimes the 10-second-dash comes in handy too. I use Photoshop to edit my pictures.

AP: Would you consider yourself as an expert in photography?

BS: I am hesitant to use the word expert, because if you asked me to teach an advanced photography class I would likely decline. If you asked me to teach an advanced Photoshop class, I would most definitely decline. My process focuses on what I love to create, and I am very confident in what I create. I do photography full time and teach workshops on my specific process, which is not a how-to photography class but instead a how-to be creative class which is supplemented by neat photography and editing tricks.

AP: What is the formula for success in your activity?

BS: When I began photography I had no idea I would be pursuing it as a career. I joined the social networking site Flickr, and because of some positive feedback on that site I thought about doing it full time. I am confident in what I am doing, because I am literally putting my imagination into photographic form. With that confidence comes an “I-can-do-it” attitude which I have adopted full force, and so I began to do photography full time. I think that advertising your work on the Internet can be quite important for an up-and-coming photography, though  not necessary. The key is to use social networking sincerely instead of with a pure business sense. It is like anything else – the more you put into it, the more you get back. I also think that having a unique vision and a specific artistic voice is going to propel you forward in becoming a professional artist, and that is something I am constantly going after.

As for upcoming projects, I am involved in a contest held by director Ron Howard called “Project Imagin8ion” in which my photo, along with 7 others, has been chosen to inspire a short film. I have an upcoming exhibition in October/November at the JoAnne Artman Gallery, and in December I have a show opening at the Annenberg Space for Photography.

Brooke Shaden Photography

AP: Is there someone who supports you in your creativity?

BS: I know that I am extremely fortunate to have such an amazing support system. Everyone in my life supports what I do, which is partly luck and partly by design. I try to surround myself with people who are encouraging and supportive, yet also critical so that I can continue to grow. The biggest support system that I have come across has been from people I’ve never met in person. There are not enough good things I could say about the online community of artists who support each other.

AP: Would you like to wish something to our readers?

BS: To anyone reading, I hope that you are filled with passion and creativity. Always remember that inspiration is everywhere, you just have to remember to look for it.

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