Photographer: Brooke Shaden
Location: Arizona, USA
🖼 "I work entirely from my home office and out in nature. I'm a fine art photographer, self-portrait artist, mixed media, writer, speaker, educator, entrepreneur, and foster mother."
❓ Who or what influenced you as a photographer the most at the beginning of your journey?
🗣 I was extremely interested in dark art and death. My main intention when I began photography was to figure out why I had such a fascination with darkness.
❓How did you start your professional career?
🗣 I had just graduated college with degrees in filmmaking and English literature. I thought I was going to make movies - write them, direct them, maybe even do cinematography. But I realized very quickly that the dream I had been working toward wasn't really my dream. I didn't enjoy making movies. There were too many people and too little control over the outcome. It was then that I picked up a still camera to try and make whole movies in one frame. I fell in love with the autonomy that process offered, and self-portraiture gave me even more control. I've been creating images every week since that day 12 years ago.
❓ What software and hardware do you use, and why?
🗣 I use Photoshop pretty exclusively, and I edit on a Microsoft Surface Studio. That setup allows me to feel more like a painter than a photographer clicking a screen. I can edit right on the screen and paint in color and light where I want it.
❓ What does photography mean to you, and what motivates you?
🗣 Photography is an opportunity - it is the opportunity to explore what makes me individual, what drives my curiosity. That is why I create at all, photography or not. I want to understand myself and in doing so, help others understand themselves better.
❓What was your most challenging project, and why?
🗣 In 2016 I created a series called Fourth Wall. I tend to be an artist who creates quickly, so for that series, I slowed everything down. I build a room inside a studio that had no windows or doors. One wall swung open on hinges to let us in and out. I shot each image from above, looking down into the room. I decorated the room differently for each image. For one, I spent 60 hours laying yarn down on the floor line by line. For another, I brought in 600lbs of sand. Another saw a lot of molasses, one required a giant bathtub covered in wax, and another hundreds of pounds of flour. It was thrilling to create.
❓What was the most important skill that you learned, and how does it help you now?
🗣 To see art in everything I do. If I can see the curiosity and playfulness of art in my business and in my personal life, I will always see the potential and the joy.
❓What is your dream project you're starving to try in the next 10 years?
🗣 Right now, I'm creating a series all about death and grief called SAMSARA. I'm looking to expand the series and make it interactive. Interactive art is where my heart is right now - inviting viewers to not only look, but to touch, feel, create, destroy, etc. I think art is more powerful when it is truly released into the world.
❓ Can you tell us about a personal or professional project you are proud of?
🗣 I'm very proud of my new series SAMSARA. I began working on it four years ago, spent thousands on it, and then realized I was creating something forced to please others and do what I felt I should be doing, rather than what I wanted. I scraped the whole thing and started over. I went from elaborate sets to simple, black backdrops. The shift was huge, but I think the series is more impactful now. I'm always proud when I put something away that doesn't feel right and do it better another time.
❓ Do you have any passion projects you're working on or plan to start?
🗣 Everything I do is a passion project! I mentioned really wanting to create interactive art. Well, part of that will be AR, possibly VR, and performance pieces. It's something I'm very eager to get into.
❓If you had just one question about anything that you could ask and get an answer, what would it be?
🗣 What will my legacy be after I die?