There was a long period of time when I felt like everything I made had to be amazing. Screw that.

I’m so far past that I think I might be going in the opposite direction. I liken it to choosing friends when you’re really young.

At first, you want everyone to be your friend. You have an insatiable desire to be liked. And you quickly learn what behaviors are widely accepted and which are not, so perhaps, you adopt the behaviors that reward you with praise.

And then you realize how exhausting it is to keep up that many friendships, and how unmanageable it is to spread yourself so thin. You start to get anxious over presenting yourself in the best way possible, and you worry that if your friends see you for who you are – imperfect – they won’t like you any more.

And some day, you rebel against that. You clean closet. You get rid of friends that don’t accept you for your weirdness and your flaws.

Well folks, here we are. I cleaned out my closet a while back. Since then, I’ve been sharing my failed images. I’ve been sharing the times when I hate creating, or nothing goes right. I’ve been sharing those moments of sheer panic, frustration, and anxiety. I share everything. Everything art-related, it’s all out there.

I’ve stopped caring if you (the broad You), think I’m a bad artist or a good one, or an artist at all. I don’t care if you hate my art, share my art, wish my art had never been made. I don’t care if you make fun of me, think I’m weird, or any other mundane, idiotic thing someone might think.

Because honestly, it is boring. And it is silly. And it’s not worth our time – mine or yours.

So if you’re here, it’s likely because you’re weird too. Because you accept me for who I am. Because we’re weirdos and we love it, and hey world, we don’t care.

Speaking of that long period of time where I did care what people thought, seeing as it took a while for me to be as empowered in my weirdness as I am now: I used to be ashamed when I made something that wasn’t great.

This new image I made the other day isn’t my best. But I love it. It satisfied a primal need to create. I wanted to make something where before there was nothing. One of the greatest and most interesting things about humans is our desire to play God – to create where once there was nothing. In so many ways. Artists are the obvious example.

So I made this thing. It’s a self-portrait covered in hands. I’ve done that before. I touch on this a lot in my voicemail. And when I finished it, I thought, “Hmph. It looks a lot like other images I’ve made. It’s not special. I shouldn’t share this.”

And then I realized what I just did. I just degraded something I made simply because it isn’t the most fresh and new thing. Simply because I thought YOU might be bored with it.

And when I say YOU, I mean the YOU of the Internet that steps on artists who don’t fit their vision. People who think that art is made for them, personally. People who get bored too easily because that’s the time we live in. And the people who don’t care how fulfilled an artist is by their own work.

That is not you, because you’re still reading this. (Well done, by the way. I ramble).

I loved making this picture.
I love this picture.
I love creating. Everytime. No matter the outcome.

I’m so glad that I’m intentionally making time for myself to create no matter what. No matter the whim or inspiration; no matter the hang-worthiness of it. No matter. No matter.

And that is what I wish you for you. To create without worry. To create because you must. To create because you feel a primal urge to make something out of nothing. To create, no matter what.

No matter.

No matter.

Inspiration & moons,
Brooke

  • February 20, 2019 - 9:50 am

    Margherita Introna - To create because you must… Ah, this right here! I wake up everyday and say this to myself.
    And this is a beautiful image. Raw, primal and beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • February 20, 2019 - 12:31 pm

    Anna D Bruce - I am so glad that I am still part of your closet 😉 BTW getting voicemails from you is the best. I am glad that you continue to be you and create. I like creepy and weird as portrayed by my Instagram. Seeing your work gave me some sort of permission to be weird – I guess it was more encouragement. I’ve always been weird. I pretended to be dead in so many pictures of mine while in college… lol I posed by graveyards and pretended to be a dead bride on more than one occcasion. I never really cared because I thrived on being weird. But then I started adulting in the traditional way a nd somehow thought I should be contained. For many years I was. But what I have learned is that the more “me” I am, the more of the right people are drawn to me and the more authentic I feel. I think it’s important that we be our most truest selves. The wold has to much “normal” and non-descript. We need more uniqueness out there!ReplyCancel

  • February 20, 2019 - 1:18 pm

    Heather Buechel - I love these voicemails from you. I wish I could meet you in person some day but I know that is not possible for me so this lets me be in your world a little more and you so inspire me. As a disabled self-taught artist I learn so much from you and your posts and your tutorials. I loved being part of your last community on facebook. It’s hard for me to come up with new things being so limited and I love that you just do what you love and screw the rest and quite honestly that’s been my attitude lately as well tired of social bias and rejection and my creative journey continues and that includes just being myself.ReplyCancel

  • February 20, 2019 - 1:54 pm

    Gallagher Green - Great audio and post in general! I love this photo because it reminds me of the older version of its self, something about the connection between them makes even more powerful. So glad you took the time to create this when inspiration hit. ReplyCancel

  • February 20, 2019 - 9:08 pm

    Kristin Indorato - Thank you for sharing of yourself so intimately. Your art—and your words—are a daily inspiration. (This moving photo included.) Those of us who are driven to create but crippled by fears of “putting ourselves out there” have so much to learn from your incredibly brave spirit. Thank you for continuing to make your honest art and open up so eloquently about all your inner workings. Having taken your two-week challenge and followed your story, I am now pouring over with ideas and taking action to see my visions through, despite having less time than I’ve ever had. I thank you truly.ReplyCancel

  • February 25, 2019 - 8:57 am

    Julie - Of late, I’ve been wondering why I haven’t seen an email from Brooke; I miss her inspiration, her thoughts, her promotions. So, I jumped over to YouTube; nothing! Wait, what? So, I jumped over to her blog only to see several posts I’ve missed. Ah, I’m caught up, I’m up-to-date with the latest Brooke content online. While reading this latest post of yours, I’m reminded of a student I had (when I taught first grade) who used to tell me how weird I was as a teacher and friend to the family. It’s been 10 years since that initial ‘weirdo’ statement, and it continues to be our theme. All my life I’ve been different, I’ve thought differently, taught differently (never subscribing to traditional teaching norms), and loved being weird. But with that came resistance especially in “what a teacher should look like” realm. As an artist, it felt super ok, as a teacher, it was frowned upon by many co-workers. This post of yours, Brooke, has reminded me of the importance of being me and weeding out that closet. Many thanks!ReplyCancel

  • March 10, 2019 - 9:05 am

    Beata Rydén - I love you Brooke! You are always so honest and that´s what I truly like about you. It´s just you and your unique voice and it´s truly inspiring <3ReplyCancel

I need to explain some complexities of my personality to properly tell you where I’m going lately.

The first is that I spend a lot of time in introspection – in my head. I think A LOT. I stare a blank walls and papers, A LOT. I am not easily bored. All of that thinking leads to little discoveries that excite me and I love to experience those little excitements and surprises. And then, I condense those thoughts down to bite-size chunks, which I share in blurbs on social media.

As a result, you see the squished up version of my brain on a regular basis, if you watch my posts. But the implication of that is multi-tiered.

One – I come off as being very heady and connected to my deepest emotions at all times. I’m not.

Two – I don’t show you my…fun?…personality a lot. Fun is definitely the wrong word. I’ve literally never described myself that way. So…maybe…free-spirited? or restless? or disjointed? or laid-back? or…

In any case, three – Sharing those little blurbs means that I’m not sharing the works-in-progress – the thoughts that jumble up and make less sense and feel more and desire condensation but aren’t ready for that.

So, here I am. Journaling. Letting anyone who wants to be here into my brain in a less curated way. The result: voice memos, journal-style vlogging where I’ll share all the different types of creativity I’m up to, and more laid-back sharing of content no matter the genre.

I’ll share updates about my novel-writing process, the new photo series I’m working on (both of them!), my sculpture projects, and more.

What does more include? Well…hiking (where I location scout and find inspiration), reading (where I imaginary location scout and find inspiration), traveling ( where I dream location scout and find inspiration)…speaking of dreams, I’d love to tell you about mine. They’re terrifying. Nights are exciting in my house.

So, here we are in journal one.

Created in 2009. but exactly how it feels to journal for me.

And here’s what I’m feeling.

Anxious. Because, well…I want to be more vulnerable. But even that is a lesson and a chore, because it doesn’t always come easy. I’m a really private person and will remain that way in my personal life. So sometimes it’s hard to separate creativity from personal stuff. And sometimes that makes vulnerability hard. But it can work, and here I am, trying.

Fulfilled. Because I know that detailing my adventures in creativity and inspiration will bring me even more depth and inspiration.

Silly. Because…who wants to read this? Or rather, and more importantly, because I don’t care who reads it and I’m doing it anyway.

I’ve never journaled before. Never. Never had a written notebook of my thoughts (except for that summer I tried to impersonate Harriet the Spy). Never had an interest in remembering my days. Never had an interest in parsing through my thoughts that way.

To be honest, I think quick, I process easily, and I don’t lament the past.

But I want to push myself into new ways of exploring and connecting.

For context, here are some projects I’m working on:

  • I have a new body of work that will be displayed in New York in June. I’m knee-deep in preparations for that, but the snow has been keeping me from shooting a lot. I’m aiming for the first week of March when the snow is meant to be melted to dive in big time. I’ve been sourcing props from my local antique store and I’ve got very in-depth images planned. It’s a series about rebuilding humanity. I kind of love it. (a lot).
  • I’m working on a very personal series about grief and death that I’ve talked about a lot in these parts. No news of where it will debut or when. It’s constantly changing. But it’s so, so fun to shoot. Think paint and syrup and clay and dirt and everything wonderful in the world. And decay. Obviously.
  • Novel! Novel novel novel! Is that word starting to lose its meaning to you? ME TOO. I wrote my novel for four years, realized how bad it was, threw it away, and became a student of the craft of writing. I’ve read 70 books in the past 1.5 years and started from scratch writing a detailed outline. That’s getting edited RIGHT NOW, ya’ll!!!!
  • Art book, whaaaaat! That’s a long time coming. My first fine art coffee table book is coming out later this year. It’ll be a 256 page beauty of my work from the past decade that I can’t tell you any more about, yet. YET!
  • Promoting Passion Roadshow! For four years I’ve hosted the Promoting Passion Convention, and I decided this year to do mini Promoting Passion events in more cities so that more people could join in. I’m working hard on it right now, confirming cities/venues/guest speakers. It’s hard work, no kidding. I’ll tell you more about that next month.
  • I’ve had to put ceramics on the back burner lately because it is the least developed of my artforms and personal things have taken a front seat in that time slot. Maybe MAYBE more on that later.

In the spirit of this journal, let me tell you how I felt this past weekend:

My attempt to SHOOT EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE.

Anxious beyond reason, because I haven’t been able to work on my new series much between travel, snow, and just plain indecision. I rarely suffer from indecision. WHAT EVEN IS THAT? So I was freaked out and frantically trying to find a solution. My solution: GO SHOOT EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE RIGHT NOW. So I did. And it was terrible. Obviously. So my husband sat with me for 2 hours as we re-hashed the images and figured out a creation plan. Whew.

I also recognized my need to be in complete control. It’s a constant battle over here. First, because my sister was in the hospital having gallbladder surgery, I was desperate to go be with her. But, in all honesty, she didn’t want me hanging around her room while she was trying to sleep. So I had to take a step back. And that reminded me that I tend to be a bulldozer. I think I know what’s best and I trudge forward no matter the cost. So I took a step back and recognized that art often imitates life, and that I need to chill out and let things flow.

And in the coming week…

I’ve got a Sony Alpha Female retreat to attend (YAY and HORRIFYING). I am such a socially anxious person that even typing this made me breath really shallow and feel a shaking in my stomach. I kind of want to throw up. The thought of being in a group of women, no matter how inspiring, where I don’t get to be the unequivocal leader…is NOT my jam.

I am only comfortable in a group if I am the leader of it. It’s something I recognize about myself as a character flaw and as an asset. Right now, it is what it is. But I’m committing and showing up so that I can help the women there as much as possible…and even open myself to being helped, too.

See, I struggle with that immensely. I don’t like to be helped. I like to be in control, as I mentioned. So in any case, that’s the big issue of the week that I’m working through, and I’ll let you know how it goes next week.

What have been the highs and lows of the past week for you? What are you excited about this week?

Do you think this journaling thing is going to work for me? Do you like the voice memo?

Until then, creative warriors,
Brooke

  • February 18, 2019 - 12:12 pm

    Anna - I think the voice memo was a nice touch. I always gobble up anything you put out there so no matter what it is, you know I will watch, listen, feel, read. There are so many things I would love to comment on but I have forgotten already what to say. For the roadshow, you know you have a home – if you chose to accept my help and happen to be road showing in Denver. That will be a couple hundred bucks saved on hotel that could go towards something else 😉 plus I am not a bad cook. Secondly, these past two weeks I have felt more anxiety than I have in a long time. The pressure of selling to survive at this point is just eating me alive. I feel overwhelmed by business tasks and trying to figure out what’s truly an important task. Trying to creat content that showcases more of my process and work in hopes to build value is also overwhelming. Every day I go to bed feeling like a failure because I just haven;t done enough. More, more, more. I feel like a fraud right now. But I am not all miss downer over here. I seized an opportunity to put together a solo art show along with opening reception at a local coffee shop. Kind of a big deal for me but it’s still in the works. Sigh. Back to my hole.ReplyCancel

  • February 18, 2019 - 12:27 pm

    Daniel Serva - Well, you should not feel silly. I read all this and I think it’s awesome you made the desicion to share more aspects of your art/life. I feel very connected with your words as I also suffer social anxiety. I find beautiful the fact that even with those feelings you push forward and expose to meet ups outhe of your confort zone. And makes me want to try that more often 🙂 as we all, you have an unique voice and I’m glad i’ll can hear more of yours from now on. Big hug 🙂ReplyCancel

  • February 18, 2019 - 3:09 pm

    sheryl - i’m so glad you are open to be vulnerable and share your inner thought process. it’s quite enlightening. this on a day that i really just want o curl up and isolate. thanks, Brooke.ReplyCancel

  • February 19, 2019 - 10:32 am

    Gallagher Green - I LOVE the voice memo! And if it lets you blog without taking up so much of your time then it is a win-win!
    I remember that movie Harriet the Spy it was really good, but that has been a long time ago. I think there were a LOT of kids running around that summer spying on people! LOL
    Can’t wait for the PPCRS (RS=Roadshow) location release, I plan on catching one in Europe since I will be living there by then!
    Great blog post, and voice thingy. I can’t wait until the next one.
    P.S.
    Those photos of how you felt of the weekend, no offense. But I nearly fell out of my chair laughing! You should have those printed on shirts! ReplyCancel

  • February 19, 2019 - 10:57 am

    Janice - I admire that you don’t lament the past. I am a slave to it. Literally. I will probably always be. I’ve come to a place where I don’t feel as much of a victim of it, but now and again I feel the full impact of it in my heart and in my head.

    I come from a feeling place I would have to say 100 percent of the time. I imagine myself creating images around my lamenting of the past and everything that is in my head. I am a full time nurse and I haven’t found a way to dedicate myself to anything else, as desperately as my soul seems to need it. I am working toward moving out of my condo into a new one and maybe a new space will lend to that experience. I pray that is what happens.

    I hope you bring your road show to Boston, or Portsmouth, or somewhere in this area. I came to your page looking for details about this years promoting passion convention, thinking that this year I would try hard to make it there. But maybe you are coming to me…. 🙂

    As always, thank you for being so approachable and so relatable. To me it seems like connection. I spent 12 weeks doing a photography intensive a couple of years ago, which turned out to be more about discovering myself than making photographs. Connection was a large part of it, especially with myself. It doesn’t come easy to me, and I think that is what draws me to your work.

    Anyway, thank you for every single thing that you do.ReplyCancel

  • February 19, 2019 - 6:26 pm

    Tom Hakett - A: Knock, Knock!
    B: Who’s there?
    A: Control freak
    B: Control fre…
    A: Now you say “Control freak who?”ReplyCancel

  • February 19, 2019 - 10:24 pm

    Andy g williams - A random question.

    When do you get boring stuff done like cleaning, gardening, paying bills etc. I just find that real life gets in the way of creating. Are there enough hours in the day!?ReplyCancel

Of all the weird things I’ve asked people to do with me, I think this one takes the cake.

On one of my annual visits to India I went on a motorcycle tour. It came highly recommended and we were told it would be a really fun time. And it was, but not in the way we expected. We visited the Mother Theresa house, Garbage Mountain (where our motorcycle broke down in front of a pile of dead dogs), a cemetery, and finally, a funeral pyre.

We sat witness to a funeral and cremation of a man and saw the family gathered, grieving but also celebrating. It felt wrong to be there, and we soon asked to leave so that the family could have privacy, though the funeral space was open to the public.

On that same trip, I watched a a hearse went down the street, carrying the dead in a glass car so that everyone could look in.

I started to realize that death in India isn’t the same as death in America. That death in so many cultures is less taboo. Sometimes death is a celebration; sometimes it is a cause for weeks long mourning. Sometimes we put a wall between us and it, or sometimes a thick, ornate wooden box. Sometimes, that box is made of glass, and sometimes those in mourning ask others, strangers, to join in with them.

Death is not such an easy thing to grasp once you’ve started traveling and understanding other cultures. This peek into how death is treated in India gave me pause, and started me thinking about death as a subject for serious introspection. Two years later, the idea for this series was born.

Though these images will not be featured in the final series, it was one necessary step in my exploration. These images were inspired by that glass car in India, and serves as a window – or really, an invitation – to get a little closer to death.

Here I am explaining to Payton how she would get up and into the coffin.

The experience of this photo shoot was all of these things: hilarious, freezing, difficult, dangerous (at times), and above all, absolutely wild.

Testing, apparently, to see if it would fall on our heads.

I had an amazing team helping me. And when I say helping, I mean doing a lot, if not most, of the heavy lifting. My friend Dave Junion had the coffin made locally and we used his forest, his fork lift, and his building skills to get it strung up in the tree. Dan McClanahan lent us his height and strength as we tied the coffin to the trees. KD Stapleton took behind the scenes images and drove some of the heavy machinery. And Randy Verhasselt worked the fog machine and helped work out the electrical wiring.

Isn’t she AMAZING for doing that?!

Not least of all, Payton Bottomley, our model, fearlessly got into that coffin. I got in first to test it, and we did put it through some rigorous testing to make sure she would be okay. She didn’t flinch at the idea, and remained excited before, during, and after the shoot.

Step 1: Put the coffin on a fork lift.
Step 2: Drive the fork lift into the forest.
Step 3: Tie rope onto two trees after the distance has been measured.
Step 4: Raise the coffin to the height of the rope and attach.
Step 5: Pray. (Just kidding, mostly).
Step 6: Set up the heater underneath the coffin to warm it and set up the the fog machine.
Step 7: Test shots.
Step 8: Get model in place.
Step 9: Shoot from every conceivable angle…because we are not doing this again.
Step 10: Hot chocolate and high fives.

And so the shoot went. It took 3 hours from start to finish. It was a beautiful day, absolutely frigid, and we laughed so much we cried.

One of the most exciting parts for me was that I got to shoot from the forklift. Dave operated it and lifted me higher and lower. I would motion to KD if I wanted to move, then she would motion to Dave to move the lift. I was able to get lots of angles thanks to this!

Do you want to know the secret to getting people to do weird stuff with you? Acknowledge that their contribution is worthwhile and appreciated. Be weird…as weird as you genuinely are. People love to hang out with weirdos. Create. Being part of a true artistic creation process is priceless, and a lot of people will recognize that. Give your energy and passion, and you will attract people who are looking to ignite their own energy and passion.

Here is the heater under the coffin to make it as warm as possible. It was only mildly successful, but did help.
Post-shoot laughs!

That’s my secret. I am wildly passionate and energetic about life, and I never fail to find friends who want to help me bring my visions to life. Though these images aren’t going in the series, they will remain a testament to what can be accomplished when your passionate vision gets loosed on the world.

  • January 21, 2019 - 5:29 pm

    Gallagher Green - I want to start with being completely honest. When I was reading the bit about the motorcycle trip my brain read India and Indiana, I was thinking “Who know Indiana was so different.” then the smarter half of my brain said, “You are a moron, it’s India!” LOL
    Anyway.

    You should have called me when you shot this I would have loved to help with “Step 10.” I am the best at the part!
    I have spent a lot of time up in loader buckets, but I have never taken photos from one. I need to though.
    3 Hours seems like really good time, I would have thought it might take longer than that. You always have such a great team around you, and that helps. 🙂
    The images are beautiful, thought-provoking, powerful, and very inspiring. It makes me feel like nothing is over the top. 🙂
    P.S.
    That is a lovely Gehl skid steer! ReplyCancel

  • January 21, 2019 - 5:35 pm

    Vicki Kurasz - Photo #11 is freaking me out. How?!ReplyCancel

  • March 10, 2019 - 9:12 am

    Beata Rydén - I absolutely love this!!! The whole concept is amazing <3ReplyCancel

Sometimes, particularly when I give lectures, I watch as a bewildered crowd looks at me with horror. Inevitably someone says, “your poor models!” and heads nod in agreement. You see, I put my friends through some rigorous photo shoots – nothing I wouldn’t put myself through, mind you – but nonetheless uncomfortable.

The way people react to realizing I’ve covered my friend in, say, wax, is almost always disgust…as if I did it without their consent, somehow. It almost makes me laugh, and we always get the misunderstanding straightened out.

Why yes, in fact I did have express permission from my model to pour wax all over her! “Oooh, okay then!”.

And so we have it again, another hair-raising story filed under “Things I Do to my Friends”.

I flew to Wisconsin to do two photo shoots for my death series called Samsara. What ended up being a $3,000 trip (more on that later) yielded no usable results, and I proceeded to begin my long, long artistic breakdown (yet again for another blog post).

But in the moment, it was exhilarating!

My friend Dave Junion in Wisconsin happens to have an abandoned train depot on his property, so I used that space to create in. Old, blank, beautiful, falling apart. All I needed was some candles, a table, and a candelier.

Unwisely, I brought the chandelier all the way to Wisconsin with me. I checked a bag just for it. It weighed 40lbs and undoubtedly TSA was concerned, but it made it through.

I found the table outside of another friend’s house in Wisconsin (you’d think I grew up there, but no, I’m a Pennsylvania girl). I assembled everything I needed, from a high-powered heater to a blow torch, candles, fabric, table, chandelier, and smoke bomb. All gathered, it took me a full day to organize with the help of my friends.

This was the test shot for the pose. We had to make sure that she could hold it comfortably enough for a lengthy period of time.

And then the torturous part. I asked my friend to lay naked on a table covered in ice for the better part of an hour while I slowly melted candles on her bare skin.

AND IT WAS SO MUCH FUN!

Here we are – proof of the laughter. Necessary so I’m not indicted.

We laughed so hard through the whole thing that I was afraid the candles were going to fall over on her body! I kept yelling at her to stop laughing which only made us laugh more, but I promise you, no one was injured.

The high powered heater didn’t hurt either, especially since we were in an abandoned building and it was 20 degrees F in the room. Did I mention it was February…in Wisconsin? The only problem with the heater was that it created two very different temperatures in the room and my smoke just tabled off at a certain height. I had to run around like a maniac waving cloth around to get it to disperse.

I used the window in the space for natural light, but needed to make sure it was dark enough that the candles had some effect. I photographed the chandelier first, hanging above her, then removed it and lit the candles. After I had some shots of her and the candles, I ran around the room with a lit smoke emitter so that I could get the hazy, smoky effect.

This image, an homage to classic paintings and particularly religious art, didn’t end up making it into my series. I ended up going in a different visual direction in which no locations were used at all, and the figures were more abstract than literal. However, I love this image, so on it’s own it exists in my heart as everything it was intended to be: a meditation on mortality (using candles to signify a vigil) and a look at the delicacy of death.

“The Nightmare” by Henry Fuseli

I am often inspired by paintings, especially Gothic, and looked upon “The Nightmare” by Henry Fuseli as a great inspiration. The pose and the lighting played a large role in creating this image. Through the series, both what was not used and what is being used, which I will share with you at a future date, is inspired by Gothic paintings.

Next I’ll share the really harrowing story of how I hung a glass coffin tied to trees 10 feet in the air in a beautiful forest in Wisconsin. Until then, my dears…until then.

Model is my best friend KD who looks as though she’s stepped out of a classic painting, and we love taking advantage of that. She’s quite literally the best, and I hope everyone finds their own KD in life with whom you can melt candles on.

  • January 18, 2019 - 8:34 am

    Vicki Kurasz - This is so awesome. I love this artwork of yours and I also fell in love with “The Nightmare” the first time I saw it.

    If you are ever in Wisconsin again and need a free assistant… 😉

    Love that you have such a cool place in my state to shoot.ReplyCancel

  • January 18, 2019 - 12:07 pm

    Gallagher Green - I remember you saying that the table was covered in ice, but I hadn’t seen a close-up shot like that before, and there is really a thick layer of ice on that thing! I am cold just thinking about it! LOL
    All though I really do understand the photo not being what you want it to be, I really do like this. To me, it has that old masters feel. And it looks like it was so much fun!
    KD is such a great person. You know someone is a true friend when you ask them to lay naked on an ice-covered table in 20-degree temps, while you light them on fire, and they say yes without batting an eye! 🙂
    Great story, thanks for sharing. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • January 19, 2019 - 6:40 am

    Jen Kiaba - Even if this didn’t make it into your current series, I think the shoot ended up being worth it on many levels. Who knows, it may find a home in a future series. But I think the thing that inspired me at PPC when you were talking about these images that didn’t make it into the series was how willing you were to try and learn in the face of “failure.” I’m sure that mid-artistic breakdown it didn’t feel that way, but the emerging from that breakdown is so powerful. Thank you for sharing this with us.
    Also, I find it hilarious that people think your models aren’t 110% down to do these shoots. 😉ReplyCancel

This image was meant to be exactly what it is, but it wasn’t meant to be what I tried to force it to be. I set out to create a new photo series all about death. I had personal reasons for doing that, but that story is for another day, maybe months from now or maybe years (or maybe never). I wanted to break down the barrier between the living and the dead. I wanted to confront what scares us most about death and in doing so, become better acquainted with my own mortality.

Alongside an idea is always a technique, or in other words, the physical manifestation of that idea. How was I going to portray death? What would the series look like? How would it come across?

At the time that I began the series, I was in a transitory period as an artist. What I didn’t realize was that it was just the beginning of a two-year struggle to find my new voice and vision. Back then, I thought I knew exactly what I needed to do to take my art to the next level.

High budget productions, ornate sets, and models.

So I started building a new series on paper, writing about it and casting models. I rented a few abandoned locations and decided to give myself a one year timeline to finish this new body of work.

As I went on, it became clear to me that something wasn’t right. I liked the images, spent thousands of dollars making them, and on some level, was proud of myself for creating in ways that were a bit foreign to me.

But on the other side..the IN-side, I knew it wasn’t right. It can be very difficult to admit, after so much money has been invested, that something isn’t working. But that is the conclusion I eventually drew after 1.5 years of working on this series.

The problem wasn’t with the series, but with the way I was creating it. I realized I stubbornly tried on different ways of creating, hoping in the process to find my new style and vision. The truth of the situation was that I was relying on visuals and techniques that I thought would make my art better, not that I actually wanted to utilize.

It also turns out that I needed that whole year and a half to reconnect with myself. I had a very scary, very honest talk, alone in my garage, about what this series should actually look like. And when I reassessed, I learned that I needed to go back to basics. That the simple, inexpensive techniques that have always served me well would serve me well again. That I didn’t have to change everything about my creation process to do something groundbreaking.

But, that’s for another time. For now, I want to share the story of this image with you.

I contacted my friend Kyna to do a photo shoot. She was 6 months pregnant at the time. It felt like harmony as I pursued a series about death and she was about to bring life into the world. I crafted an image around her, deciding to play up the themes of life and death.

In a really scary moment, I decided to ask her a question that I hoped wouldn’t offend. I asked her if we might create art using her father’s ashes. He passed away a few years ago and I thought, with new life and old, that we could create something really meaningful.

Here’s the thing about being a totally out-there, weird artist: you attract like-minded people. She didn’t flinch at the idea, but instead welcomed it openly.

I booked a location, drove 3+ hours away to find it, and then took a 1 hour truck ride on the most treacherous road to get to the house. It was off-roading to the extreme. But finally, we got within a mile and hiked the rest of the way.

I spent the day before gathering ashes. I went around to some local campsites and asked if I could clean out the fire pits, which the park managers happily agreed to let me do (that way they didn’t have to do it!) and I took those ashes with me to our location. They were HEAVY, which was unexpected, but we somehow managed to hike with them up to the house.

I scattered the whole room that I chose to shoot in with ashes, and then set up tall black candles around the space. In addition I set up a light outside the window to create streaks of light, and kicked up dust to create a hazy effect in the room. I also bought an old bassinet for the background.

When it was time to shoot I asked our helpers to leave so that we could have privacy. It was time for her father’s ashes. It was years working to heal through his passing, and this was one more step in that process. She had the box next to her, and I asked her to take some ashes and wipe them across her eyes. She did, and it worked, but we needed more. Eventually holding the pose and getting the fabric to stay up was too much to keep together, so she asked me to spread the ashes.

I felt such an interesting feeling of connection and disconnection in that moment. Connected, because I was permitted such a sacred rite. Disconnected, because I could feel the bone pieces in the ashes as I wiped them across her eyes and I recognized what I was doing in its component parts; that something can carry memories, and therefore be alive in one way, but be entirely inanimate, too.

We finished the photo shoot and packed up as best we could. Hiking down the mountain, I remember feeling such awe for her and the amount of vulnerability to do a photo shoot such as this one.

She thanked me for creating something so personal to her, but for me, it was universal.

We all touch death. We all touch life. In that, we are all connected. She gave me a gift that day that I will never forget, and it was the gift of facing death (and life) in a way that most people don’t get to. To hold the remnants of a person in my hand and to be entrusted to create art out of it. To be told, through willing participation, that my vision is worthy of creation.

That is the gift that this image gives me. And to my dear friend, whose baby girl is nearly a year old now, I thank profusely for participating in and helping to create this story.

Though this image won’t live it’s life as part of the series I intended for it, I’m learning that sometimes the things we create have a way of settling into exactly the place they were meant to be.

Photographed in January 2018 on a Sony A7RII + 24mm lens.

  • January 15, 2019 - 8:47 am

    Dave - Such an amazing image and backstory. If creating it gave both of you a connection the universe, then it needs nothing else to be a success. Congratulations on pushing boundaries and taking the journey within, and creating something so healing for the both of youReplyCancel

  • January 15, 2019 - 9:10 am

    Tim Stephens - This is wonderful on so many levels! The seed of the idea came to fruition — from you broaching the topic with your friend, to the discussion, the boundary setting, the second thoughts and second-guessing that you both surely had, to the execution, the tear-down, clean-up, the post production — right up through to this blog post. You’ve given your friend one last memorable experience with her father. And told a tiny part of an important story about what it means to live and die in a world of deep connections — in this case, a connection that I’m presuming to be a profoundly positive one.

    But the image would still work even if he were her tormentor — or anything in between. Because the “true” meaning of the image is personal, subjective and unknowable to the viewer. It’s a gift to your friend that, for better or worse, can never be taken away.

    I think it’s important that we know the materials involved in its creation. Otherwise, the power of the metaphor and the purpose of the art is diminished. (I’m not sure exactly how that’s best accomplished other than with an illuminating title.)

    Not everyone will understand your purpose. But I do. Some will be offended. But I’m not. Kudos to you for exploring this idea. I hope you continue to do so. There is no more fundamental purpose for art than to examine our relationships with life and death. ❤️ReplyCancel

  • January 15, 2019 - 9:45 am

    Mikael - This image carries such an emotional weight with it. I could feel it at the first glance, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on what the feeling was. Through your story we are pulled so much deeper into this image. Anyone who has lost… Anyone who has brought life into the world… Anyone who has pondered his or her place in the cycle of beginning and ending… This image and its story binds us all on a human level. Thank you for sharing the gift that your friend gave you.ReplyCancel

  • January 15, 2019 - 10:06 am

    Franzi Zimmer - Oh Brooke,

    this teaches me so so much on so many levels. First of all the vision you had and pursued and made come to life is incredible. It is touching and heartwrechningly beautiful in so many ways that I am not capable of putting into words adequately what this photo and its backstory make me feel.
    But also it is just astonishing how brave and bold (in a super awesome way) you are to ask your friend to do this shoot with you. I probably would have shied away and if you would have done this you would have not given her the chance to experience such a profound moment to (in a weird way) celebrate life and death and use it as a kind of therapy and a memory that will always always have so much meaning to her.
    You never cease to amaze me and I am forever grateful for you putting your art, your heart, your vulnerability, your success stories as well as your struggles out there. Thank you so much.

    Much love,
    FranziReplyCancel

  • January 15, 2019 - 10:53 am

    Mikael - This image carries so much emotional weight with it. At the first glance I could feel it, though I could not yet exactly put my finger on what I was feeling. Through your story I was pulled so much deeper into the image. I understood the connection to the image. Anyone who has lost… Anyone who has brought life into the world… Anyone who has pondered his or her place in that cycle… I feel this image and its story has the ability to bind us all on a human level. Thank you for sharing the the gift your friend gave you with us and allowing that connection.ReplyCancel

  • January 15, 2019 - 2:39 pm

    Anna Bruce - Wow, Brooke! I remember when you told the story at PPC. This is definitely a really deep take on life and death that I would never have even conceived. This image is beautiful and gives me anxiety all at the same time.

    I am glad that you shared the meaning and story with it because it really takes it on a deeper level. I connect with this image on a different level which I will personally share with you some day.

    I appreciate you and Kyna’s bravery to create something so bold. Art is meant to stir emotion and that is what I love about your work.ReplyCancel

  • January 16, 2019 - 1:52 am

    JOSE Antonio Blaya - Es una historia realmente apasionante. Yo leí hace un tiempo un libro titulado Sobre la vida y la muerte”, y en el de nos hace ver la realidad de cual es nuestro existir. No hay que tener miedo a la muerte, porque los que creemos en el Mas Allá, la muerte es vida.
    Respecto a tu trabajo me parece magnífico y lo que me preocupa es lo que dices sobre el motivo que te ha llevado a ello y no puedes contarlo. Espero que no sea nada malo y personal respecto a ti o algún familiar.
    Besos Brooke.ReplyCancel

  • January 16, 2019 - 8:33 am

    Gallagher Green - I am a little late to this post, I was all consumed by some creative class I was taking on Facebook. 😉
    I can understand why did piece didn’t work for you in the way you want, but it is a stunning piece nonetheless. Powerful and emotional. But it doesn’t feel quite like you if you know what I mean.
    It does give an of life and death, it seems like a lot of art I have been seeing in the past few days has to do with death and lose. Which is odd timing because my Dad is walking the tight rode of that line, and has been for weeks and will continue for possibly months. So maybe it is unexplainable timing, maybe it is me reading too much into things.

    Thank you for sharing this with us. <3ReplyCancel

  • January 19, 2019 - 6:46 am

    Jen Kiaba - This actually brought tears to my eyes. There’s something very pure about the love and grief you’re portraying in this image. You talked a bit about the taboos around this image on IG too, but when I sit with the idea of what makes it taboo I realize that our connection with death and grief are so antiseptic. I think this was a brave piece, thank you for sharing it with us.ReplyCancel