Thursday, May 06, 2010

Artist Spotlight - Brooke Shaden

Greetings, Friends...

For those who've been here before, welcome.
For those who are just visiting, welcome ;)

Today is the 6th... The 6th of May.
And, with another month comes another Artist Spotlight!
Today feature highlights a photographer who's not only mastered the art of conceptual storytelling (such as last months spotlight), but also the art of digital enhancement to better relay a story through the photographic medium. Her works are often a bit darker in processing or concept, and are brought to fruition through her use of post work tools & textures. I'd like to introduce you to May's Artist Spotlight, Brooke Shaden. And I know I needn't remind you that all work contained within this blog is copyrighted by myself or the featured artist. Please feel free to enjoy, but please don't swipe. ;)

Brooke was lovely enough to sit down with me for a little Q&A, and has included within this blog post, works that she feels best represent her as not only a photographer, but also as an artist and person.
Alright, let's roll...

The Artist, Brooke Shaden...

Q: What is your full name?
A: Brooke Shaden
**Funny story, before I got married my name was Brooke Mastromatteo. We had talked about taking my last name because we didn't prefer my husband’s, and in the end decided to completely make up our own last name that had meaning to us as a couple. So, Shaden is neither my maiden name or my husband’s last name.

Q: Where in the world are you located?
A: Los Angeles, CA, USA

Q: Self taught or schooled?
A: Self taught in photography. I went to school for film and English and graduated with two degrees. The English helped me a lot with storytelling, and oddly enough the film degree stifled my storytelling abilities if anything, but I learned a lot of great technical skills insofar as film cameras are concerned.

Q: You are absolutely an artist. What made you want to express your artistry through a photographic medium?
A: From as early as I can remember I wanted to be a writer. I would spend a lot of time writing poetry and attempting short stories but something never clicked. I could write descriptions and create aesthetic scenes, but I could never incorporate plot or conflict into my writings. When I was a senior in high school I took a videography class for the sole reason that my husband took the same class and got a bad grade, and I wanted to show him up. I ended up excelling in the class and winning a local film festival, and decided to major in film in college. All through college I thought I was going to be a cinematographer, but something never felt quite right. It wasn’t until I graduated from college and picked up my still camera that everything fell into place. It was as though everything that I had tried to do in my life came together – the storytelling was there, the imagery…everything that excited me about writing and cinematography.


*Selected Works*

Below, "Sleepwalker"

Above, "Hierarchy"


Q: How would you describe your style and vision as a photographer & artist?
A: In every photograph I create, I want the viewer to question what it means to be alive. I think that is a very profound question to pose and a brave question to attempt to answer. Sometimes it is only through examining death that we realize we were never really alive at all. Living is not simply breathing; it is a whole experience that some people miss out on. I want to deconstruct what is beautiful. I want to portray disturbing images in a way that will make people think twice. I want people to redefine what ‘beautiful’ means to them. Aesthetically I want to make the viewer forget about the medium, and, as Marshall McLuhan famously said, focus on the message. I try to incorporate a painterly style to my images. I hope that the painterly aesthetic paired with the square format will take the image to place that is not necessarily photography but instead a whole new world.

Q: Many of your works are often macabre in concept, processing, or storyline. What compels you to create this type of imagery?
A: To put it simply, I want people to question the definition of “beautiful”. I hope that someone viewing my photos will see a macabre scene against an aesthetically beautiful image. I find that contradiction fascinating.

Q: Who are you behind the lens? Where would people find you in your downtime?
A: Behind the lens I am completely and 100% me. I draw inspiration from my mindset, I think that I see the world a little bit differently, and I think that is what every artist needs. When I am behind the camera (or both in front and behind) I feel like I am home. In my downtime I am behind the lens. It is all cyclical, you see If I am not shooting, and in the off chance I am not thinking of concepts…I love watching Dexter, Mad Men, and Lost. I also very much enjoy my bi-weekly trips to Costco with my husband Free samples, yum!


*Selected Works*

Below, "In Formation"

Above, "Depth Perception"


Q: What gear do you work with? What piece of equipment in your kit could you just not do without?
A: I have a Nikon D80 with a 50mm f/1.8 lens. I also have the kit lens (18-55mm) that I use for underwater or overhead shooting. I have a tripod. When I light my photos I use 200watt bulbs from Home Depot with Ikea paper lanterns for diffusion. But the thing that I love the most is my C-stand! It is on loan to me, but it comes in super handy when I need to hang a sheet behind me or I just need another hand when shooting self portraits.

Q: In your career thus far, what has been your single greatest memory? (ie: award, publication, comment, shoot, etc...)
A: The day that I quit my full-time job. I remember walking across the lot to my car on that last day and feeling such a sense of joy, knowing that the next day I would wake up and be able to focus on my passion instead of what just so happened to make me money. I only worked in the “real world” for a year after college before I decided to pursue photography full-time, but it was enough to show me how that world can kill someone’s spirit and creativity. Now I get to live in my own little fantasy world, fully equipped with a camera and an imagination and time to put all of that to good use.

Q: In contrast, what has been your biggest lesson or revelation?
A: My biggest lesson most certainly has been learning about print edition sizes. When I had my first batch of prints made it was suggested to me that I number them out of 100. I thought that seemed extremely high so I numbered them out of 50. But, to my surprise, even that was far too large. I went to a gallery in Laguna Beach and was told that they would not exhibit me unless my editions were changed, and I have since changed them to be out of 5, 10, and 15. Lesson learned, for sure.

Q: What is your favorite piece of work you've created? Why?

"The Aftermath"

A: This piece is my current favorite. I am always hesitant to answer that question with a recent image, but this one doesn’t feel as recent as it is. This has been a long time coming for me, it is so intrinsically my style and theme that I am surprised it did not come to be sooner. I like the painterly feel of this one and I think it is acted beautifully by my two models. It really represents who I am as an artist, and it is exciting to come across pieces like that in your portfolio that so wholly represent who you are as an artist. I have had many pieces that speak to me in that way, but for now, this is my favorite.

**But, a whole new question completely – which is my favorite printed piece? Hands down, this one:

"The Little Sleeper"


Q: Who are your greatest artistic inspirations? (photographic or otherwise)
A: I adore the Pre-Raphaelite painters and I take a lot of inspiration from them. I study brushstrokes and try to see how I can incorporate them into my photos either through texture or otherwise. Photographically, I really enjoy Julia Fullerton-Batten, Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, and Gregory Crewdson. Bringing it back to flickr, I love the works of Genergohl and Mariel Clayton.

Q: Do you have any advice for those that look up to your work, you as a person, or are just starting out in photography? What message would you tell a newbie?
A: The thing that has propelled me through this journey has been finding solace in the fact that anything can be learned. When I began editing photos I found it very overwhelming but I never questioned whether or not I could do it. I always knew that any idea I had was possible, that is the beauty of the technology age, and so I would never give up on a photo until I had figured out the trick behind it, whether that be making someone levitate or changing a color. And my advice to anyone trying to find their niche in photography is to figure out what you want to say through your art. I think it is very important for an artist to have a point of view and to know what that point of view is.


"Selected Works"

Below, "My Little Bluejay

Above, "The Inconvenience of Spirits"


And that about wraps it's up for this months Artist Spotlight. I'd like to thank Brooke for being such a lovely interview and unique talent.

To see more of Brooke's work, you can visit her:



-Ashley | Bottle Bell

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Anonymous said...

Wow! Thank you Ashley for pointing this girl out. She's amazing.
Also, I really enjoy her views on using post like brush strokes. When you look at her work like that, it does immediately become apparent in each piece!

Thank you both again!


Muriel Wang said...

Goodness, I just love her piece Little Sleeper!

She's also very well read. I've been following her for quite a while on Flickr. :)

Samantha Nandez said...

I've been following her on Flickr for awhile, she really does have amazing work and such strong compelling images. Great interview as well :)

Brooke Shaden said...

Thank you for this Ashley, the questions you asked were some of the most interesting that have ever been asked of me. I especially enjoyed my favorite moment in photography and the biggest lesson I've learned, very interesting questions that tell a lot about a person I think.

Anonymous said...

Great spotlight blog!

.E. said...

Gorgeous WORK.. wow.. all these images are so amazing

Brian Donison said...

Great compositions, and and interesting to read the thoughts behind the images. Thanks!

Elle Moss said...

Such a fan of Brookes work. It amazes me how far she has come in such a short amount of time.