Brooke Shaden explores the darkness and light in people, and her work looks at that juxtaposition. As a self-portrait artist, she photographs herself and becomes the characters of dreams inspired by a childhood of intense imagination and fear. Being the creator and the actor, Brooke controls her darkness and confronts those fears.
After studying films for years in college, she realized her love of storytelling was universal. She started photography then in 2008, excited to create in solitude and take on character roles herself. Brooke works from a place of theme, often gravitating toward death and rebirth or beauty and decay.
Ultimately, her process is more discovery than creation. She follows her curiosity into the unknown to see whom her characters might become. Brooke believes the greatest gift an artist has is the ability to channel fears, hopes and experience into a representation of one’s potential.
While her images come from a personal place of exploration, the goal in creating is not only to satisfy herself; her greatest wish is to show others a part of themselves. Art is a mirror for the creator and the observer .
Brooke’s passion is storytelling, and her life is engulfed in it. From creating self-portraits and writing to international adventures and motivational speeches, she wants to live a thousand lives in one. She keeps her curiosity burning to live a truly interesting story.
LACP Interviews Brooke Shaden
LACP asks Brooke Shaden questions about their background, career in and beliefs about photography:
Los Angeles Center of Photography: What kind of photographer are you?
Brooke Shaden: I am a fine art photographer specializing in surreal and dark self-portraiture.
LACP: How long have you been shooting?
BS: I have been shooting for 14 years.
LACP: Where did you get your training?
BS: I am self-taught in photography but have a background in film-making and English.
LACP: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?
BS: I still don’t know if I want to dedicate my life to photography, but right now it is the single most fulfilling way of creating. I do know that I want to dedicate my life to storytelling, no matter what medium that might take in the future.
LACP: Did you ever come close to giving up?
BS: I have not because I feel there are still so many stories that want to be told visually. As you evolve as a person different ways of communicating with a camera become available to you. I can’t imagine ever giving up entirely.
LACP: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?
BS: Photography is one of those rare experiences that allows you to see in a different way. I think that pursuing it as a career opens up a new life that you may never have seen previously. It is always a struggle to choose a career that is uncertain and essentially creative, but it is so rewarding that the word sacrifice never felt applicable.
LACP: What have you gained by being a photographer?
BS: I went from being someone with no inkling of what I was capable of to discovering the power and purpose I can have as someone who expresses her opinions. I never thought anyone would want to hear what I have to say, but photography has let me glimpse the power a story can have on someone else. I discovered myself as a creator and as a character, both very important roles in my life.
LACP: What do you love most about teaching?
BS: Creating is often seen as a selfish endeavor because it satisfies something inside often before thinking about how it effects others. I can see nothing less selfish than the act of creating because when you express your truest self, you encourage others by example to do the same. I want to help people to express themselves in their most authentic way through art in the hope that what they create will inspire someone else to do the same.
LACP: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?
BS: Find what you want to say – what your core message is – the thing you feel needs to be expressed before you die. Once you have an inkling of what that might be, create it. Create it over and over until it is clear. Techniques will come and go but the message of what you are doing will remain. That is what sets one person apart from another. It is what makes us human, and art is an expression of that.