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Self Portrait Fine Art Photography with Brooke Shaden Part II: The reDefine Show with Tamara Lackey

Self Portrait Fine Art Photography with Brooke Shaden Part II: The reDefine Show with Tamara Lackey

Hi I’m Tamara Lackey and on this part 2
episode of redefine show for AdoramaTV I continue my discussion with fine art
portrait photographer Brooke Shaden and we dig into the details of her post
processing work. She shares that even though she starts
with things like props and wardrobe etc. she can still spend up to 50 hours and a
thousand layers in Photoshop just finishing one image. Check out why. Your work has a really… I’m not sure of the easiest way to say this. Obviously it’s fully finished and post- processed but it’s post processed in a way
that, for me, seems like it really is the element where you’re telling the story. Like you obviously shoot and you are the model. Are you the model all the time? Well, you know, I moved a few years ago and I made a vow not to meet anybody, isn’t that horrible, so I moved… You made a vow not to meet anybody to the point where you had just moved to, ok. Because I was feeling so overwhelmed
by all this creative collaboration that I was doing that I honestly just wanted
to be alone. I would travel, I would meet people,
I would shoot models so now when I’m home I only photograph myself and if I’m
traveling I photograph other people so… But it’s about eighty percent self-portraits, yeah. So you’re doing the self portrait, and then, and we can show some of those images of you doing self portraits because they’re
very interesting, especially in some very very tight spaces where you’re being
really creative about getting these shots so you, you’ve shot it, you know what you’re
going for but the post-processing is where you’re
like, okay, I’m going fill in the rest for you guys. Would you say that’s accurate? Definitely. I mean I’m a very simple person in a lot of ways, like I’m not a technical
person. I don’t learn very well I guess, like all through school I was just
really bad at school. I never really found my footing in something
that I was really good at so when I went into photography I was
like, you know, I’m just, I’m not good at learning this. I
would watch videos and I wasn’t able to take it all in. So I just said I’m going to do this in
the simplest way possible, the most logical, simplest way. So for me that was
creating in the environment that I wanted to shoot in as much as possible, so
that I didn’t have to worry about compositing if I didn’t know how to do it
and I would bring all the props there and the wardrobe and everything and then
when I got in to post, it tends to be simple in that I’m never creating
anything in Photoshop. I’m never creating something that wasn’t actually there but
I’m using a lot of very simple tools to enhance it in a way that it feels like
what my imagination feels like. So when I look at a forest I don’t just see trees
and dirt and stuff, I see this creepy, dark background with maybe some smoke
and I just visualize things in a certain way so I edit until it looks
like exactly what I imagined it to be. That’s interesting, so you’re
saying I’m not really putting anything in there that wasn’t there in my mind? Right. But also, like in terms of
people who have this amazing ability to create something from nothing in Photoshop, I have never been able to do that So you are definitely starting with core. Exactly. I’ve got the props, I’ve got
the wardrobe. It’s all there and then it comes together. And then how long would you say you spend in Photoshop on an average image where there’s a heavy
amount of compositing? Well I would say… if it’s heavy probably 10 hours is average. If there
are a lot of little components that have to go in, upwards of 30-40 hours and if
it’s, you know, a little bit less with the compositing, at least two hours but
usually about five is normal for me and I just find that if it’s less than 2
then I haven’t given it the attention it deserves. I kind of feel like it’s my
little child and if I haven’t read it 10 bedtime stories then it’s not okay yet. so I’m just always thinking okay well I have to hit my two hour mark and maybe it’s a simple picture and
that’s great but usually I can go further with it. And the longest you’ve ever spent on one? Probably 50 hours or so. 50 hours on one piece. Yeah, on one piece. And how many layers is that? A thousand. Yeah there’s a particular image where I created a dress for myself out of keys but I only had one little key so I photographed that in about a hundred different ways
or so and then started cutting the key out, layering it on my body with compositing
until it looked like a full big dress made out of keys Layer by layer by layer yeah. What are you feeling when you’re doing
that? Do you feel like ‘oh my god’ or I mean or are you just lost in it and
seeing if… Both, yeah if everything is going smoothly,
I’m lost in it and I’m not one of those people who can sit and have a TV
show on or music on. I sit in dead silence when I edit so I just sit for
hours and hours just moving those keys around or whatever it is but I remember
with that particular picture, I was on an old PC that my husband, it was like
his hand me down laptop-computer that I was editing with and I remember it would take at least 30 seconds just for a key to move across the screen because
it was freezing so then I was not so calm. Have you ever had the horrible crash and loss of thousands of layers or hundreds of layers? Yeah, yeah. I mean, yes. I don’t… not anymore because now I save my work but as an artist starting out I remember I had
the worst month. I lost two files that had taken me forever, just from crashing, I didn’t learn my
lesson and then my whole computer crashed and then I lost all the first
three months of my work and that was like horrible. That’s so cringy. So nowadays you’re doing… tell us about your work in India because
you’re doing work with… to help other people and and bring attention, will you tell
us about this? Yeah so it started I guess four years
ago now I think or maybe even more. A woman had approached me. She was
friends with somebody who took a workshop of mine and this person and said you
should look at her work. She does some storytelling things that you might like
and she did and she said you know I work with girls in India, mostly survivors of sex trafficking. She
thought maybe that if I could teach that method of creating, then that might help
them out in some way. So I went over to India for the first time and started
teaching workshops that were supposed to be about photography but I realized
very quickly, couldn’t be, because it’s kind of worthless to walk into
somebody’s life for two days and say here’s a camera, okay go have fun with
that. So instead we… I just said well you know what, I’m going to teach about storytelling and self-expression and how to, I don’t want to
say heal yourself through art, because I’m not a therapist in any way, but just
how to express yourself in a way that feels nurturing to you. So I started teaching workshops like
that and I did that for a few years and going back and back and back again and
then I just said this feels awful in a way, because I’m
leaving after a week every time and what am I really giving and so
that’s when I said, let’s just start a school. Let’s do something bigger. So last year we finally raised enough
money to start a school and it’s called the Light Space and it is a school that
caters to sex trafficking victims but also victims of abuse and sort of young
women going through the shelter home system in India. Is it very much for women? Not anymore. We had catered it that way
and the first round was, and then we had a few boys who were applying and saying
but we really want in too and it’s like how do you say no to that when they’ve
had this really, really difficult past so I think next we’re going to start mixing
boys and girls together, but we just had the first session I guess and they
actually loved it so much that now we’ve extended into an advanced class for them,
so they’re going to keep going and it’s really great because now you know
it’s going to provide them a living wage and they can move out of the shelter
homes that they’re in and really start a life. And what’s the name of the website? Okay well that’s a perfect name for it. That’s wonderful, though, because it’s interesting. You kind of put the condition there like
‘I’m not a therapist’ or ‘I’m not…’ but what you are doing is giving people
the tools they need and the instruction on how to use the tools and the space to do that and letting them heal themselves. Exactly Which is amazing. I mean some days I wish that
I could go back to school and train and be somebody who could be there and
really help in a more significant way but then at the same time that’s, you
know, we all have a role to play and this has been mine so far, so I have to be okay with that, even though it never feels like enough. Yeah. No, I know that feeling. You’re like but I’ve been doing so much but it’s still…
there is just so much. But yeah, you’re obviously doing
more than your part. Thanks. And lastly you obviously, along that,
you educate around the world and you do this here. You had a conference. I was
lucky enough to join you at your last conference. I was so grateful. I loved it. I had such a good time
teaching and you have another one coming up soon in Colorado? Yeah Colorado Springs. It’s at the end of September, it’s, you know, I was going to a lot of conferences, photo and
otherwise, just doing different speaking events and I kind of realized that
every single time I would go I was always the really strange one going to
these events, like everybody was like why are you here again? I’m like I don’t know, I don’t know… Yeah I’m not really sure and then I kind
of realized that even though I was like the oddball at these events there was
always like a little group of people who I fit in with and they would always say
I feel like I don’t fit in here and so I said I want to make an event where you
do fit in and where it’s, you know, all about creativity and sharing and
community and loving one another and just really being a nurturing place so that’s what I did and it’s been
awesome so far. Yeah, it’s interesting that you say that because I think there’s so many people who feel that way all the time. Yeah like especially, I think that’s an elevated feeling for creatives. You know, you just kind of… there’s that
there’s a level of self-consciousness and I don’t know if I fit in. Yeah and the more I kind of open up and try something more that you could hurt me. Yes, yeah exactly. So it’s wonderful to feel like you have a place to go and have that community. It’s just like creating a little home. Yeah and it’s the Promoting Passion? Promoting Passion Convention, yeah. Okay and that website is connected to Yeah it is. It’s also just Ok perfect. Alright, and where can people find out more about you online on the Facebook and the Twitter? Everywhere. @brookeshaden most places. On facebook it’s Brooke Shaden photography but it’s all in my website, I hate saying websites. Check it out because there is also…you show not only your work but you also give overviews and there’s just a
lot of community and it’s really cool. I do try. You do try and you succeed. Thank
you, Brook, I appreciate it. Yeah, my pleasure. Thank you. Thank you so much, Brook, for that wonderful discussion. Check us out here next time on AdoramaTV and do not forget, you can subscribe to AdoramaTV and get layers and layers and
layers upon information.

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8 thoughts on “Self Portrait Fine Art Photography with Brooke Shaden Part II: The reDefine Show with Tamara Lackey

  1. would be nice if this was an instructional demonstration video instead of a long promo character profile

  2. Hi. Fantastic interview. I am really impressed by your work. You are self motivated but you motivated all photographer.good luck

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