1 Had you always wanted to be a photographer growing up, or was there
something else you thought you’d like to do?
My earliest memories of what I wanted to be
were dreams of teaching and writing. I used
to sit up in trees with a notebook and scribble
little 7-year-old musings, which in hindsight
were probably horrendously funny! I always
thought I would be a poet or a novelist or an
2 What happens when you think of a concept?
I often start with a theme and then build from
there, asking myself how to best symbolize what
I am trying to communicate. I sketch (horribly)
and write out a description of the shoot.
Sometimes visuals come to me first, and then I
work backwards to decode them and make sure
they have meaning and are telling a story.
3 Who have you been inspired by in creating your work?
Definitely the Pre-Raphaelite painters are a
main source of inspiration, particularly visually
through their colors and tones. I love Gregory
Crewdson as a photographic influence.
Movies are very inspiring to me, my favorite
being Pan’s Labyrinth.
4 What happened in your most recent dream?
Last night I had a dream that I was a dinosaur
(a Triceratops) in a video game, and I was
running from someone who was trying to kill
me. We were on a ship, flying through the sky,
and I fell off the edge and died. I frequently
die in my dreams, and I am often being
murdered. Totally normal, yeah...
5 What are your favorite techniques for creating some of the fantastical aspects
of your photos?
There are countless ways to create fantasy
images or composites, but for me those
techniques are just that—techniques. The
fun begins when I can play with color and
lighting. I often drastically skew both of
those things to fit my vision, mostly through
the use of selections and curves. That is
my favorite part of the creation process
because it marks the moment when the
image goes from what anyone could
capture and put together in Photoshop to
my personal stamp.
6 What was your favorite grade in school, and why?
I really loved school so they were all a
favorite in a way, though I was very bad
at school. I tried so hard and just couldn’t
quite get it. Our experiences growing up
are so much about who is in them with you,
though. I had a third-grade teacher who
was obsessed with bats. I always found that
to be a little bit morbid even though the
other students thought it was funny. I felt
really connected to her because I found
them beautiful too, so that was a good year.
7 What’s a non-photography-related bucket list item that you have?
To publish a novel and give a TED talk.
8 What family heirloom do you cherish most?
I have a few small crocheted snowflakes that
my grandmother made. I believe it is the
only thing I have from my family. She was
my best friend until she died, and it is nice
to have something handmade, knowing that
she touched them and made them with love.
Another thing that I have, which I don’t know
if it counts, is a coat of arms that my husband
and I made. We made up our last name, so it
was fitting that we create our own symbol for
us as a family.
9 Has there been a photo concept that’s been particularly challenging to pull off?
What about one you still hope to achieve?
I just finished one yesterday, in fact! I had
tried five times before I was able to finally
create it. In this particular case, it was a
matter of various elements I was using for
the composite that wouldn’t come together
properly, but I learned so much in the
process. And it was so much sweeter when it
finally happened. A big dream of mine is to
photograph whales underwater, so that is a
shoot that I one day hope to achieve.
10What do you want people to understand about self-portraiture?
That it isn’t about seeing yourself in an
image. It is about creating a story around
the character you want to become. It is
about the experience more than the image.
It is about accepting who you are right now
while acknowledging who you want to be.
Brooke Shaden is a fine-art photographer
focused in self-portraiture and conceptual art.
At WPPI 2017, she’s teaching “Creating a Fine
Art Series” (Sunday, Feb. 5, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.)
and “Backgrounds & Lighting for Compositing”
(Tuesday, Feb. 7, 8: 30 a.m.– 10 a.m.).
Self-Portrait Artist, Educator, Dreamer
INTERVIEW BY LIBBY PETERSON
10 RANDOM QUESTIONS