A winter wind, Brooke Shaden
As a child I used to have this big encyclopedia of fairy tales. I remember it was a gift from my grandmother. Every night I was read a different tale, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White etc. Most of them had beautiful stories and happy endings. But there were also other type of stories; dark ones, with mysterious characters. These were the Grimm stories and I loved them, they were real in a very eccentric way.
That’s why I felt overwhelmed when I saw Brooke Shaden’s photographs. I was seeing exactly what I imagined of these stories and I thought they were unbelievably beautiful photographs. It was in my photo class where I was introduced to Brooke’s work. The texture, the melancholy, the darkness in each photograph make them special in their unique way. I was surprised by her amazing work and thrilled about how she could imprint that kind of feeling in a photo. Soon Brooke became one of my favorite photographers and I realized an interview would be an incredible experience to know what's on her mind when photographing.
How old were you when you started with photography?
I was 21 years old and I had just graduated from college. It was December 2008.
Do you have a specific memory of your early days as a photographer?
I do. I had just finished school and I had about a month before I was supposed to move out to Los Angeles, CA to start a career in filmmaking. I was talking to my friend one day who showed me flickr. She and I had both never seen it before. We were inspired by all of the art on there, by the chances people were taking. I began to see photography in a way that I never had before, so we agreed to try our hand on it. I remember planning my first shot ever, it was a clone shot using only Christmas lights to light the shot. It was very ambitious, especially for my first attempt. I remember trying to figure out my remote that I had just bought and I found that to be challenging. I spent about five hours trying to figure out how to do the shot and my husband helped do test shots with me until I figured out the whole cloning process. My earliest memory with my photography is doing that shot.
Your photographs seem to come from fantastic dreams and crazy night tales, what are your main sources of inspiration?
My main source of inspiration is nothing tangible, it is just a mind set. I see things differently, in a dark yet beautiful way. I wish the world could be one big dark fairytale. I think that so many people in this world are not really living, and I want to question what it means to be alive. That is my source of inspiration.
If you could choose one short story and tell it in photographs what would it be?
Wow! Awesome question, I love that you just asked me that. Probably “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” because trying to capture that alternate reality combined with a beautiful and sad death would be really interesting. Any Poe story would be incredible.
Who are your favorite photographers?
Julia Fullerton-Batten, Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, Gregory Crewdson
You tend to use female models mostly, is there a specific reason for it?
I started photography by shooting myself only, and that was because I was most convenient and I enjoyed having full control over my images. I then realized quite quickly that if I was going to continue on like that, it had to be for a reason. I am drawn to using the female subject because I like to play against certain stereotypes. I have a series titled “In the Kitchen” where I portray “housewives” (as though that is a bad thing) with a twist. I want the viewer to see the female subjects as breaking against the mold. I also think that the female form is whimsical and fits nicely into the stories I want to tell. However, I have recently worked with a male model and plan to do more with that in the near future.
If you had to choose only one of your pictures as a favorite, which one would it be?
My favorite photo is this one:
It marked a time when I thought I had captured the painterly technique, and I love deep, saturated and bright colors against a dark background. I also love the red riding hood character very much. My second and third favorite images are these ones:
My Little Bluejay
I read in your blog you started photographing your own short films, what are they about?
Yes, I wrote and directed my first short film in the fall of 2008. It is called “Red Vines” and it is about a young girl with an alcoholic mother who escapes into a vine-covered thicket in the woods to hide. She slips into her imagination when she enters the thicket and finds herself in an alternate reality where her surroundings are broken and decayed and she is forced to confront her mother about their relationship or stay hidden forever.
If you could live in any fantastic world, how would it be?
Everything would be darker and more natural. I would live in the countryside and I would be able to photograph all day long. The world would be much less interested in trying to move forward with technology and be more focused on the beauty that surrounds us naturally. We wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss fairy tales, because in this world anything would be possible. But mostly, we would all remember what it is like to live instead of going on with “life” as scheduled.
Interpretation of a storm
Any advice for young photographers?
Have a vision and try to execute it. I began photography with a very specific idea of how I wanted my images to look and what I wanted to say with them, and I didn’t stop trying until I produced images that fit that idea that I had in my head. I think it is important to have something to say and to not give up until your images match your ideas.
Thanks a lot to Brooke who was incredibly sweet and is a wonderful inspiration.
If you want to know more about Brooke visit her website or her blog.