For a while now I have been inspired by Brooke Shaden. I fell in love with her storytelling style, full of dark fairytales and rich colours. I recognised a few months ago that it was very much the direction I wanted to take my own art.
For those of you who don't know her, Brooke Shaden is an amazing fine art photographer, writer and motivational speaker based Arizona, USA. As you can see below she is an very talented conceptual artist, with a lovely dreamy, moody style. (Check out more of her work at www.brookeshaden.com)
Artwork by Brooke Shaden
NOTE : ALL PHOTOS AND ARTWORK IN THIS BLOG ARE MINE UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED
I was lucky enough to meet Brooke last month and attend her intensive three day Australian Retreat in Melbourne.
Brooke was fantastic to work with, so open and honest, you can see really she cares about everyone, so much so that its impossible not to love her. Her friends (assistants) Kelly, KD and Jen came with her and were also warm, funny and engaging and seriously knew how to look after our every need.
Group photo by Brooke
We stayed at the Nunnery guesthouse in Fitzroy and the first day we photographed in the Museum Gardens across the road. This started with laying down and going to sleep - oops haha no I mean relaxing into creative daydreaming.
This is us daydreaming, as you can see its very restful and absolutely a must on the to do list ! (Photo by Brooke)
After the daydreaming we broke into creative teams of three and took turns photographing each other's concepts.
Three different groups, three different stories! (Photo by Brooke)
Brooke Frances, Vicky McKay (photographing) and someone in a red cape :-) (Photo by Brooke)
Keira Hudson was a retreat participant, an excellent model and luckily on my team :-)
The beautiful and talented Jen Brook came all the way from Manchester in the UK to model for us!
On the second and third day we were photographing at the insanely amazing Labassa Mansion in Caulfield North.
The Labassa Mansion with all it's crazy inhabitants! (Photo by Brooke)
The Labassa Mansion was fantastic, fully restored and elegant on the ground floor and grungy and derelict on the upper floor, allowing us to have two very different images styles. The light through the windows was stunning particularly through the stained glass window that lit the incredibly beautiful main staircase at the end of the grand hallway. The main rule of the house was don't sit on the furniture (its old!), don't touch the walls with all their very old and beautiful embossed wall paper and don't disturb the peeling paint! Oh so hard to comply - but we did!!
The staircase and the stained glass windows were just beautiful and the light changed continuously throughout the day.
On the last day of shooting we had thirteen photographers and eight models including Brooke and her two friends. We arrived with a suitcase packed full of fantastic outfits and some props - rope, magnifying glass, lantern, blindfold etc and we shot solidly for eight hours. The routine - plan your shot, grab a model, grab an outfit and a prop, shoot your concept and then let someone else have a go.
During the third day Brooke demonstrated three of her own concept shoots and then later that night she did a quick edit on the walking the wall shot. Extending out the scene, and using her well honed skills controlling light and colour. One of the most endearing and surprising things about Brooke is her willingness to laugh at herself and make mistakes. She's a consumate pro, and yet like all of us, she gets stuff wrong or doesn't know things. I loved her humility and willingness to be "normal" - just like us ;-) !
We also had a play with smoke, although the wind was so strong at the front of the mansion that we were forced to improvise in the center courtyard. (Of course we weren't allowed to have the smoke and matches inside because it is a heritage listed building).
So what did I learn – how to photograph more effectively so as to extend out my scenes when the field of view isn’t big enough. How to get in the mood and conceptualise some good stories, understanding the value recognizable icons with universal meaning, and finally how to control the colours and light even more during the editing process.
I was reminded that subtlety in artwork is beautiful and can be exquisitely and soulfully enhanced by the artist statement. This was evident both by looking at Brooke's work and the writing that accompanies each piece, but also later in the week by attending the Andy Warhol exhibition where I found his work visually not so much to my taste, but coupled with his messages powerful and moving. Crafting art that speaks from within us is vitally important. I have unique messages and my own particular experiences and views that I want to be expressing and sharing with the world.
Brooke was an open book with regards to how she runs her business. She was extremely welcoming of questions and gave very sound advice. Finally I got such lovely positive feedback from my one-on-one session with her - praise and encouragement about my art and my direction so far and how to focus and move forward from here.
Interestingly there are friends who are telling me that they can see a shift in my work since the workshop – have a look and tell me if you agree. Below are some of my original photographs and artworks derived from them. I have so many shots its going to take me ages to edit them all (which is a good thing, right!).
THE BURDEN OF TIME
This particular photograph was a blindfold exercise. I had a blindfold on and had to describe the scene to Brooke who takes the picture on my behalf. This really make you think in detail and imagine the outcome. I have to vision and describe - the pose, where are her hands, can you see her face etc, then the camera angle and the exposure. I have to have a sense of the story and the emotion, however the end result is still a bit of mystery until the edit is done (below).
MARY "BROOKE" POPPINS
REFLECTING ON TIME
THE GRIEF OF THE CHILD
Brooke has become mentor and also a friend. She is so generous still with her time and connection even after the retreat. As she said at the end, we are now friends for life and if she can help in anyway she will. Having mentors makes me brave, and we need to be brave as artists so we can be honest and vulnerable and real with our art. We need to be brave when we put our work out into the world for acceptance. Applying to galleries and publications is daunting and can result in lots of knock backs before we get one connection. This will be my next test.
"The Sound of Flying Souls" by Brooke Shaden
I also treated myself to this print from Brooke. I connected so much to this image, literally feeling the release from my chest. For me this picture represents the rapture of freeing the creativity that has been trapped inside me for so long.
I am so glad that I spent the money to go to this retreat, it was a lot of money for me, and it felt very extravagant to do it, but sometimes we just need to give over to those big opportunities so big learning can happen too.
Anyway take care and happy creating till next time
At the end of a crazy wonderful day of shooting. (Photo by Brooke)
NOTES : 1. ALL PHOTOS AND ARTWORK IN THIS BLOG ARE MINE UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED
2. One participant requested that we not show her face only for cultural reasons.