Brooke Shaden Interview
Tell us a little about yourself:
I grew up in Lancaster, PA, USA. It was pretty awesome! I loved being around nature and living in a place that wasn’t very city-oriented, in pace or way of life. I started writing when I was quite young and always wanted to be a writer, and then discovered filmmaking when I was in high school and ended up studying filmmaking in college. It was after college that I picked up my camera, and have been creating in the photographic discipline ever since.
When I’m not creating art I love hiking and being in nature. Traveling to unique places always excites me, whether I have a camera with me or not. I am also a huge science fiction/fantasy fan, so I love watching things like Doctor Who, Firefly, and shows/movies that inspire.
When did you first begin to make art?
When I was probably eight years old I started writing poetry, or at least what I thought was poetry at the time. I never really stopped writing after that, but my idea of what writing could be changed. Suddenly I started understanding storytelling and narrative, so I branched out into short stories. Filmmaking entered my world when I was 17, and then photography when I was 21.
When did you first start using Photoshop and how did you learn?
I started using Photoshop pretty much the first day I started photography. I was extremely confused at first and I remember working through my first image with my husband, who has a very different way of thinking than I do. I love to experiment, but I also get very stuck in my way of doing things, so I am always reminding myself to learn new techniques. I learned mostly by thinking about what I want to accomplish – a very specific technique – and then deconstruct the process to figure out how to do it.
We are made up of so much uniqueness that it is so exciting to figure out how we are individually inspired.
What inspires you?
Everything, and I really and truly mean that. I think that being able to tap into your unique imagination and way of seeing the world is priceless when it comes to creating. I love knowing that the way I see something, be it a story or scene or another person, is different from how anyone else would. We are made up of so much uniqueness that it is so exciting to figure out how we are individually inspired. I am drawn to fairy tales, forests, nature, whimsy, death, decay, and rebirth.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
Gregory Crewdson, Julia Fullerton-Batten, Tom Chambers, Jamie Baldridge.
I find fulfillment in knowing that there is intent behind each decision when I finish a piece of art.
What is your typical process when creating a piece of art?
My most common way of creating is to create the back story, draw a sketch, and have a pretty solid foundation of what I want to see created first. I love to visualize before I create and to really think about why I am creating instead of jumping straight in. I find that personally, when I begin creating before I’ve given each option thought, I end up with a piece of art that I wish I could change in some way. I find fulfillment in knowing that there is intent behind each decision when I finish a piece of art.
Often I will write a paragraph first about what the image should look like, loosely, and what it means. I will then draw a sketch of the image so that I can get some details out, like camera angle, perspective, and shapes. After that, I set up the shoot, often on location, which usually takes about 10-15 minutes on average. Editing comes next, which takes an average of 4-5 hours, but often more depending on the image.
Where do you get your source materials from?
I shoot almost all of my images myself, from the locations to the textures. Every once in a while I purchase a stock image, like a goldfish or wallpaper, and I have about 5 or 6 of those images. However, the majority of the time I shoot my own, which I find to be a great way of location scouting and filling time when I am trying to find inspiration.
What is your favorite Photoshop trick/method at the moment?
Right now I am really excited about adding smoke into my images. I am working on a series where shadows and smoke play heavily into the drama of the visual and I have been loving overlaying smoke into the background of my pictures. I photographed a smoke emitter going off on a black backdrop outside and with those 50 or so images, I am able to use them for various smoke-filled pictures.
Find your own way of expressing your art through the vision and the technique.
What is your favorite Photoshop tool or plugin at the moment?
I have never used a plugin but my favorite tool is Replace Color! I love having full control over changing colors in my images without having to buy a different colored dress for every photo shoot.
What work of your own are you most proud of?
Lately I’ve been most proud of self-portraits created with nature, as that is how I feel most connected to the world.
What are you currently working on?
I am creating a series currently in my studio where I built a 7×7 foot room with no windows or doors. I have been shooting looking down into the small room and filling it with different elements. For example, one was created by lining the floor in yarn, and another by filling the room with sand (currently in the process of removing said 800lbs of sand from the room!). It has been an amazing (and ongoing) experience of really using my hands to get dirty and build something out of nothing. I love seeing my vision come to life in front of me instead of always on my computer. I also love how ephemeral it is. Tearing the set down right when I finish shooting has been very cathartic.
What would you tell someone who is starting out making Photoshop art?
To work backwards. Find your voice, your idea, the thing that you can’t not say…and then deconstruct it. Ask WHY for every step. When you get into Photoshop, click what feels natural and then explore. Find your own way of expressing your art through the vision and the technique. I have been told too many times that my way of creating is too basic. Do what feels right, and let that be good enough for you.