Brooke Shaden's imagination is a wild dreamscape that disobeys the rules of reality. In the latest episode of B&H's series, Women of Influence, she shares the process of exploring the freedom photography affords her in bringing her fantastical visions to life, often with herself as the model. An admittedly shy person, she explains how she first became her own model, "...a large part of it was being extremely uncomfortable with talking to anybody at all.... I was really shy and I was just really horribly terrified of going out of my apartment in a lot of ways. So I just used what I had available... and that was me." She goes on to describe the process of problem solving her shoots in solitude "When I was first starting and it was just me and my camera and my tripod and so I would sort of brainstorm...and I'd spend the whole day just trying, trying, trying to make it work." Shaden says being both the model and photographer helped her quickly build up a diverse set of essential skills simultaneously. "I was able to learn posing and directing and the storytelling aspect of it and how to light it."
In a revealing moment, Shaden speaks very frankly about how the process of working by herself on these elaborate creations actually became a powerful source of confidence and conviction as an artist. "There was so many things that I was learning, just by myself, where there was no pressure of anybody else to get it right." She continues saying, "It ended up going from this thing that was just practicality to something that I found to be really empowering and really inspiring for myself and I've continued to do ever since then." Shaden goes on to further elaborate on how the process of creating art can provide the necessary security to take risks without compromise. "When you're creating art, you're creating a space for yourself where you can express anything, where you can be anyone. And I was alone doing that. So, by putting myself in the frame I was giving myself that space to create and say anything and then see if I felt comfortable enough with that to share it with other people."
The unique surrealist look of Shaden's images have made her a celebrated professional photographer as well as an Instagram star with an ever-growing following of over 100,000. Her signature style is something she feels is a very natural direction for her. "I've always been obsessed with surrealism and magic and fantasy." Reflecting on having a "typical" and happy childhood, ostensibly diametric from the outlandish and sensational images she creates, Shaden explains that her photography is about asking: "What if you could create a world that was truly the heightened version of what you wish your reality was?" She continues to find interesting new ideas that stretch the imagination and force her to think critically as an artist. "I always want to be doing something that makes me uncomfortable and pushes my style forward a little bit."
Watch the other episodes that are out now in the Women of Influence series at bhphotovideo.com.