If you know anything about me, you know that I am not all about spending a ton of money to create images. There is a time and place for it, but as a sustainable practice, it’s just not in the cards for me. And if I had to guess, it’s not in the cards for a lot of people.

One of those things that can get pricey is shooting underwater. It doesn’t have to be – I actually use a couple of inexpensive underwater options. For example, I opt for a comparably inexpensive camera for my underwater work (Sony RX100 III) which requires a smaller underwater housing because it’s a smaller camera. It works great and I love the setup. There are also bags for DLSRs, but that’s a risk you’re taking.

A few years back I started creating underwater images…without being in water. I love the practice. It always challenges me to think outside of the box. It challenges my editing skills. And it challenges my sensibilities about posing.

I had an absolute blast filming this White Wall Wednesday. I shot in one of my favorite shooting locations: an underpass. It was loud and weird and I hope you love the video. But guess what – for next week’s White Wall Wednesday, I’m doing a longer editing tutorial for this image!

What ways do you find to 1) Shoot around your budget, and 2) Create outside of the box?

  • December 5, 2018 - 7:45 am

    Gallagher Green - I have never created in an underpass, I have been to one but it is about 100 feet from an abandoned railroad that is made of stone. So I get drawn to that! LOL
    The biggest thing to help me create on a budget is your videos, you always have great ideas, and know how to keep it simple. It really helps me from wanting to go overboard, and if that happens I don’t have the money for a pricey shoot which just bums me out on creating. So, thanks!
    As for creating outside of the box, I have found to create inside a box! If I don’t have a “Room” that fits the photo, I will take a picture of a cardboard box from the angle I want, then add textures to turn it into a perfect looking room.

    I can’t wait for next weeks video, this one was great! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • December 5, 2018 - 8:16 am

    Stacy Honda - Thank you! This is so cool. I can’t wait to see how you put it together : )
    Have you thought of joining Patreon? I’m sure there are many people who would love to “subscribe” to you and support you a regular basis so you can keep making videos like this.ReplyCancel

  • December 5, 2018 - 8:34 am

    Turla Peterson - Thank for a very inspirational video Brooke and always looking forward for your White Wall Wednesday instructional videos.
    I learn shooting in a budget from you. Before I always thought to have a beautiful shot that is worthy to be hang on the wall you have to spent a whole lot of money. After seeing lots of your tutorial, boy I was so wrong. Now I venture in discount store especially thrift stores to find my cheap dresses and props. Very exciting most of time to find something so cheap and yet so beautiful to photograph.
    I tried to think outside the box when it comes to my shot but most of the time my images revolved in my life experiences. Emotions that I have encountered that I cannot seem to express, I can easily evoke in an image. I have so many ideas floating in my head right now, unfortunately all my photography stuff got packed and put into storage. We have move to Alaska and still planning how we can have all my stuff sent to me. For now I am happy to watch you videos and make a journal.
    More power to you and long life so that the next generation of creative photographer can benefit from all your creativeness.ReplyCancel

  • December 5, 2018 - 9:14 am

    Julie Corcoran - I created a panel of 15 images, on a prop/wardrobe budget of €50. This, I find, forced you to become creative, especially when you have to reuse props but make them appear different (different size, colour etc through post processing).

    I find boundaries/restrictions make me more creative then if I had a limitless budget.
    If someone gave me €1000 to create an image I think my head might explode!ReplyCancel

  • December 5, 2018 - 12:25 pm

    Paragon Moore - Budget: Local models often have the props and wardrobes. If not, I will take the shopping… Goodwill and Party Store has some great stuff.
    Box: I usually have an idea or concept. The the environment / members of the shoot / and what is around provides inspiration. An Idea comes up and then the collaboration begins.ReplyCancel

  • December 5, 2018 - 4:12 pm

    Anna D. Bruce - You are just the best. Before I even watched this, I was looking for underpasses near by to shoot in 🙂 You’re so much fun to watch. I can’t wait to make my first “under water” photo!ReplyCancel

  • December 6, 2018 - 6:11 am

    Stephan Ernst - Your underwater pics are really cool. They look close to realistic.
    I’m an underwater photographer, who has spend a lot of money in his equipment. But I do mostly low budget shootings in a pool and move the pics afterwards (in my post processing) to the sea (or phantasea…). So I avoid the travelling cost and can shoot “everywhere” in the world…
    I often create with my shots underwater sceneries which did not exist – my way of out of the box thinking.ReplyCancel

  • December 7, 2018 - 4:52 am

    Piet Cosaert - I always try to shoot with a smal budget, and I’ve learned that a better knowledge of Photoshop might be very helpfull. It helps you create things beyond every imagination and for sure it helps thinking outside the box.
    I will make an underwater picture this evening, but will wait for the post process untill next wednesday :D.
    Thanks Brooke for sharing all this and most important for me is all the inspiration you give us.ReplyCancel

    • December 7, 2018 - 4:29 pm

      Piet Cosaert - Now that I’ve made the pictures this evening, I can’t wait till next Wednesday :D.
      BUT with tons of other pictures I’ve loaded myself with a lot of other compositing work. I think that I took the wrong way in life to become an engineer…ReplyCancel

  • December 10, 2018 - 8:29 am

    John - Your videos are very helpful – both in the concepts and processing of the raw images.

    The only downside is I tried one of your poses and had to go to the chiropractor to walk upright again.

    Keep up the good work.ReplyCancel

  • December 11, 2018 - 11:37 am

    Vali Hawkins Mitchell - may sound silly…but simply seeing your name in my inbox reminds me to remain true to my passion…and your blogs are Light and Shadow and the Light of shadow and the shadow of Light. Which is where I find my own path. Mahalo from HonoluluReplyCancel

  • December 15, 2018 - 12:43 pm

    Steve Bunderson - You continue to amaze me Brooke. Your creativity is non stop and your creations really amaze me. Being laid up fighting a bad infection from surgery makes your daily posts something very exciting to look forward to. Please continue on this creative journey and allowing us to look over your shoulder. Keep up the great work.ReplyCancel

  • December 16, 2018 - 3:40 am

    jetti luckoski - Thank youReplyCancel

  • December 17, 2018 - 8:54 am

    Ana María - Hola Brooke, me llamo Ana y estoy fascinada con tu trabajo.
    Hace 4 años empecé con el maravilloso mundo de la fotografía y al tiempo te descubrí. Me encanta lo que haces y como lo haces, es muy difícil hacer lo que tu haces.
    En mi tiempo por la web iba descubriendo lo que me gustaba y poco a poco iba conociendo e, tu obra fue decisiva para ver lo que en realidad quiero. Te agradezco todo lo que me has aportado y sí, me encantaría poder tener el ordenador con el que trabajas ahora. Mis medios son pocos pero si tuviera algo así, sería maravilloso. Saludos y sigue con tu trabajo que para mí es lo mejor que he encontrado.ReplyCancel

  • December 17, 2018 - 2:41 pm

    Ana María - Maravilloso el vídeo, desde 1ie lo Colgaste en YouTube lo he visto más de 10 veces, estupendo.ReplyCancel

  • December 18, 2018 - 1:55 pm

    Ana María - My voice is dark like my heart, I’m not going to say that I’m not happy, but deep within my queen’s restlessness, I do not find peace …ReplyCancel

  • January 7, 2019 - 4:03 pm

    Sylvie BB - I love and am drawn so much to your work, personality and teachings! You inspire and motivate me to think and get my creativity going! Thank you for being the amazing person you are, I appreciate you! ❤️ReplyCancel

The creative process. Is it usually the same for you each time you create, or is it different? Maybe even drastically different? Do you know what to expect or is it a surprise?

I work from routine best, so my shoots usually go to plan, or at least follow very similar steps. Here are most common steps for my shooting process, as you’ll see from start to finish in this in-depth video:

1. Brainstorm
2. Sketch
3. Write
4. Costume/Props
5. Set the camera
6. Test shot
7. Shoot
8. Cull images
9. Edit image
10. Share!

When I started writing that I didn’t know it would fit neatly in to a 10-step process, but there we have it. Creature of habit over here. I love comfort and stability in my creativity. I thrive in a controlled environment.

I often wish I was different so that I could embody more of a traditional artist spirit. For example possessing any of the following traits would be kind of great: wanderlust, spontaneity, or fits of inspiration.

Well, that third one does happen sometimes. But in general, I am predictable and even-keeled. That doesn’t mean that I don’t surprise myself, that I am not wildly inspired, or that I don’t enjoy a big adventure. Simply, that I don’t thrive under those conditions all the time. I love to work with a list, an itinerary, and a closely monitored clock.

I actually attribute these characteristics in myself to success. Because of my frighteningly equal split of Type A and Type B personalities, I can focus, understand my tasks, and get work done efficiently. But, because I am naturally creative, I have lofty dreams, big ambitions, and a wild imagination. They work in really good unison and harmony to create steadfast creativity.

The before image.

Steadfast creativity. What is it?

It is the knowledge that creativity will always be there.

It means not relying on inspiration to strike like lightning.

It’s cultivating what inspires you to draw upon that any time.

I don’t like uncertainty. But I especially don’t like it when it comes to my imagination. I want to know that it is a muscle I have worked so much that it remembers what to do in a pinch.

I think that is why I’ve taken such a step by step approach to photography. It helps me to understand my job, which frees up my mind to focus on more creative tasks. If I’m confused by my process, I can’t focus on my creativity. Plain and simple.

So, that’s my creative process! What is yours? How do you work best?

  • November 28, 2018 - 8:20 am

    Gallagher Green - I never used to sketch or think of anything ahead of time, but since I have started taking your classes it has all changed. I have over a dozen sketches since PPC, but some will take some time to execute.
    I love this photo and the in-depth video, I never get tired of watching your photo shoots and edits. I am going to go share it in my group right now! Thanks!

    Glad you didn’t slam your head into the wall, I was a little worried about it. LOLReplyCancel

  • November 28, 2018 - 8:21 am

    Omar Sierra - Hey Brooke. I admire so much your work and your creative process. Personally I´m trying to work in an organizational way, but I´m still being some chaotic when I create. I can be walking and find out an interesting scene or object, then I shoot. When I´m in front of my Laptop then could came some ideas to editing the photo. But I think I can be more deep in my work with a organization and discipline.

    Thank you for sharing us your workflow and your creative process.ReplyCancel

    • November 28, 2018 - 5:18 pm

      Gallagher Green - I have found with my own work flow became more organised as I created, along the my inspiration. Like Brooke said, they are a muscle, the more you use then the strong and easier it becomes. So create even if it feels unorganised and chaotic, and if don’t like how the piece is going finish it anyway it will help your mind get used to the workflow of editing.

  • November 28, 2018 - 8:37 am

    Anna D. Bruce - Wednesdays are my favorite days. I have a very similar 10-step process for creating but #1 can really vary for me depending on the situation. I brainstorm when: I am asked to create something for someone or a specific project – I breakdown what they wanted, what symbolism, posing, wardrobe, colors, words best depict the concept and then go from there. When I create for myself #1 looks like this: Lightning strike! Go write the idea down! Then brainstorm what symbolism, posing, wardrobe, colors, words best depict the concept.

    One thing that has always worked for me is to challenge myself to create with an object/wardrobe (maybe even word or quote). I sit and I think, “Okay, what can I do with this?” This technique really feeds my need for problem solving and creating at the same time. I am not always good at “Okay! Here you are! Create” Especially when everything is unfamiliar to me – I get overwhelmed and freeze. I NEED to plan ahead of time. This happened to me at PPC. I didn’t know what landscape to expect so at first I was completely blank. If I needed to shoot upon arrival I would not have been able to. So, I mulled. I walked around, looked at interesting walls, locations then I mused through the props and wardrobe until something spoke to me. Then, I challenged myself to create with those items.

    I am excited to watch your video during my lunch hour. Hugs <3ReplyCancel

  • November 28, 2018 - 9:54 am

    Turla Peterson - I love the way you break down your creative process. I have pretty much all your Creative live videos and I tried your techniques. I started even sketching even my sketches are so horrible. Most of the time my idea comes as soon as I wake up in the morning and usually stayed with it all day. In my head I start to plan what I am going to do and soon enough I will shoot or sketch. Pretty much all my images are product of this process.
    As easy as it comes it can fade also so quickly especially if I have bad dreams or just having a bad day. These lasted for a while and sometimes for months and I don’t know why. I just could not worked on anything and when this happens I tend to write short stories and sometimes poetry. Through my short stories an idea will come and flourish. Not a whole lot of people cares much about my stories and poetry but I just simply just don’t care anymore. I was told once that my writing is simply waste and my pictures are basically crap. whatever they might think it’s my creative process to bring me back to the state where I can create again.
    Thank you so much for sharing your gift, your visions and your talent. You have helped so many people especially me to go beyond of what we think we can create.ReplyCancel

  • November 28, 2018 - 12:10 pm

    Chrystal Kelly - Hi Brooke. I think we all wish we were a little different, I know I do. Not that I wish away who I am but that I wish I had a little more of that right brain side(I think it’s right…lol) working for me, the part that’s more pragmatic, better with executive function…. but that’s just not me. Those things are really challenging for me. My workflow tends to be idea, sketch, too long planning , shoot, edit, sometimes share. And I like to sometimes make images right when I see something that sparks curiosity too, like I’ve been playing with reflections in puddles as a study on light and how reflections naturally layer composition and texture, it’s different then most of my more conceptual work but it keeps me playing in the world around me. Thank you for sharing your process❤️ReplyCancel

  • November 28, 2018 - 7:56 pm

    Vicki Kurasz - I love hair toss photos, so thank you so much for this. I actually did the hair tosses for a group of photographer friends a few years ago (my hair is upper butt length). I normally don’t like being in front of the camera, but it was a lot of fun.ReplyCancel

  • November 29, 2018 - 4:50 pm

    Brooke Vega - Many artists and scientists are starting to challenge the traditional notion of artists as kooky, impetuous people possessed by a particular passion or genius is mostly made up. There is some fascinating research coming out about the neurobiology of creativity! Still, I believed in the artist stereotype for most of my life. I have always been a thoughtful, methodical person, and people always told me I was left-brained and analytical. So I got a degree in Economics and got a job in Operations at a tech company.

    But, you’re living proof that careful, disciplined processes fit just as naturally into a creator’s world. In fact, I think it might be even more important for solo creators or entrepreneurs. Creating as an individual grants a great gift of freedom and a lot of responsibility at the same time.

    For me, a lot of my process comes down to self-management. I struggle to create when I’m in a negative emotional state, and, somewhere in the course of my life, the voice in my head that doubts me got hold of a microphone. It likes the sound of its own voice.

    So on days when I have serious creative work to do, I start by getting my mind and body in the right state.

    The rest of my process isn’t as honed as yours (something to aspire to!), but I always start by asking myself to identify the 1-3 things that are most important for me to accomplish. What do I want to convey? What’s my outcome?

    Thank you for sharing so much of yourself and your process! You have become one of my favorite sources of inspiration.ReplyCancel

  • December 12, 2018 - 11:00 am

    Georges Dutil - Love your work, it keeps me motivated. I don’t have your discipline, even though I’ve been an active shooter for the past 50 years and loving it more each day. I tend to go out and let lifes calling approach me with events and situations that require my attention and then, having started out in photography by learning from master painters and the cinema I will try and bend reality in that direction.ReplyCancel

  • December 17, 2018 - 9:02 am

    Ana María - Sería un honor poder trabajar contigo me encantaríaReplyCancel

  • January 31, 2019 - 2:04 pm

    Julie Jacob - The hairflip is my signature move so I love seeing this massive composite of it!!
    Way cool to see the entire creative process start to finish! I’ve never written things out like that beforehand but I can see how it’s much easier than just keeping track of all the things in your head like I do! Do you update that notebook then with the final images?
    I’m also super curious about the tool or method you used to fix the background behind the hair and behind your arms! I really need to learn this! Thank you 🙂ReplyCancel

“I Am Made of Stories”, self-portrait, November 2018 |  Available through my galleries at: www.brookeshaden.com/prints

Although the name of this post is a literal representation of what our video shows today (because I’m an early bird and I am constantly early to everything, including the sunrise)…it is also a metaphorical nod at what I really want to dig into.

Working alone.

And I don’t just mean physically. In this new video we take a look at how I work 100% alone when I go out on shoots. That means using myself as a model while thinking about everything a photographer must consider: light quality/direction, background, lens choice, angle, wardrobe, props, pose, exposure settings, etc.

But the video covers that pretty well. Let’s talk about the other end of working alone.

You work alone. I work alone. At some point, we find ourselves utterly alone.

Even if not literally – maybe you work in an office with people or have a loving partner or friends – but eventually, you will find yourself with a dream that only you has, and you won’t know how to achieve it. Your friends will think you’re a little nuts, the internet won’t give you any great answers, and you’re left alone.

That is the darkness I’m talking about. The want-it-so-bad-but-can’t-find-help kind of darkness. What to do? I think I’ve made a game out of working alone, or at least that’s how it feels. I’ve done it for so long and in so many ways.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs
and developing our wings on the way down.”

– Kurt Vonnegut

I’ve put together a list of what I’ve learned from being a professional loner.

1. Your mistakes will not break you.

The first time I wrote to galleries I was 22 years old. I put 100 gallery emails, after a ton of research, in the TO line of my email. Not the BCC line…And I hit send. It was a terrible move, the kind that many less optimistic people would give up at after receiving some very harsh emails back, such as I did.

Here’s the point in my telling you this. Nothing really matters. If you mess up trying to walk through one door, the world doesn’t close all other doors. I messed up a lot. I did stupid things like that mass email. I made prints and dented and scratched them. I misprinted. I broke frames in transit. I didn’t insure my pieces and they got damaged. I didn’t know how to talk to galleries. I wrote unprofessional emails. And despite making a TERRIBLE impression on a LOT of people, I still managed a career.

Please, please, I’m begging you: stop believing that one mistake will lead to your downfall. In my experience, the easiest way to fail at your goal is to stop trying because you made a mistake, not because of the mistake itself.

2. No one knows anything.

People look like they know a lot. People want you to think they know a lot. And some people do. About their industry, about their journey, but not about yours.

You know how we’re all adults pretending to be grown up but we’re not really grown up, we’re just pretending? What’s that? You don’t know what I’m talking about, and you really are a grown up and an adult at the same time? Well then, I misjudged you. But for the vast majority of us, we’re guessing. We’re playing this game where we look like adults and so we try to do things that make us adults, but really we’re children inside navigating a giant and scary world.

Don’t count on anyone to guide you. Don’t count on anyone to know your path. Just guess at it, like we do everything else.

Let’s get that straight right from the get-go. Yes, some people have been successful. Maybe even in what you’re looking to do. Yes, some people make a lot of money. Maybe even in what you’re looking to do. But if you try to pursue the same avenue they did, it won’t work. The more creative your endeavor, the more solidly you can expect that to be true.

Let’s take my journey as a fine art photographer. My dream was to exhibit in galleries. I asked around and couldn’t find any consistent advice.

“Make a ton of prints at once and then try to sell those over a few years,” one person told me. “Make prints as they are ordered and don’t waste your money,” another person said. “Number your prints out of 200” versus “number your prints out of 5″…and so on.

And yet, it worked out.

3. Could you please commit to being weird already?!

The most successful people (and I’m using successful not only to mean monetarily, but also through innovation and creativity) are people who did things differently. They thought differently, created differently, and dreamed differently.

You are an artist. You are already different – other, unusual, outside – so you know what it means to think differently. If someone said to you, “Your art is the same as everyone else’s art,” you would take that as an insult. But if someone said, “Your business is the same as everyone else’s business,” you might feel relief that you’re doing it “right”.

Something is broken in how we work. Artists should embrace the unknown in every aspect of what they do.

4. Stop searching the internet. Search your brain instead.

This will sound harsh, but think about it before you judge me:

How often do you reach for the closest search engine when you have a question, be it the never ending wait, what is that actor’s name?! to how do I become a professional artist?!, or some variation thereof?

Classes, workshops, mentors, Google searches, emails to professionals…it never stops.

What if you gave yourself a challenge that for one month you had to make every decision based on really and truly thinking it through with no outside aid, not even running it past a friend, coupled with a little help from your guts – your intuition?

Could you get through a month like that? I don’t think I know many people who are willing to make big decisions, especially about their creativity and business, without looking up something comparable.

I think this is severely hurting our ability to take risks and be confident in ourselves. We are so constantly looking for validation in our choices that it has become part of our habitual process. This needs to stop.

5. Failure to Fail.

I believe that because we are so unwilling to fail at so many things, we have developed an ironic failure to fail. Call it F to F syndrome. It happens when we are so afraid of messing up that we a) do nothing at all, or b) look for an exact roadmap until we start becoming someone else.

The shoe doesn’t fit. Stagnation does not become us. And the only way out is to make time to fail, and recognize that we will also, most likely, find the time to succeed.

I am most proud of my willingness to fail.

I fail at photo shoots about once ever 2 weeks or more. I fail at business attempts a few times a week. I receive rejection emails, I am told no often. I hear silence most of the time when I send an email out into the void.

Sometimes I end up covered in molasses half naked in the woods with no one around to help me and a picture that looks like crap.

You know, normal stuff.

And despite that…

No, because of that…

I feel that I am more successful than I have ever been, and certainly more so than I ever expected.

Listen, a lot goes into success. It isn’t just trying hard and trying often, trusting yourself and making mistakes. It is about producing great work. It is about developing a great work ethic. It is about learning and education – yes, take those workshops, put in those hours. But don’t let it be a crutch. Be great in your own right, not in someone else’s.

Today for White Wall Wednesday I celebrate this unique, personal, fulfilling and difficult journey we are all on. Today is another day. A day to say:

Screw this, I’m making choices for myself and by myself.
My failures will not end me and my successes will buoy me.

How will you proudly push
forward in your own darkness?

Leave a comment.


  • November 21, 2018 - 6:39 am

    Charles - Brooke I absolutely love your way of putting this in to perspective.ReplyCancel

  • November 21, 2018 - 7:18 am

    Turla Peterson - Like you I worked best being alone and by myself. I can pose the way I want, I can think quickly of what I need, and best of all my creativity really shows with nobody telling me on what I need to do.
    What really stop me from pushing forward is impostor syndrome. I always feel I am not good enough on anything I do. I always put myself down and self defecate. I am working on it very hard and my goal is at the beginning of next year is to put myself out there regardless of what might happen. It will be very very hard but I have nothing to lose and hopefully I can overcome my fear of rejection.ReplyCancel

  • November 21, 2018 - 8:19 am

    Kristey Fritz-Martin - This is just perfect, and as always, it is like you can see into my soul with your amazing Brooke magic. I can’t even put into words how much I needed to hear all this! I have been slipping into a rut lately and I know the Sony thing didn’t help (that mentorship was like all my hopes and dreams tied up into a beautiful package with a bow on top) but I just realized that I already kind of have it. . . We all do. You are so open and giving of yourself and “mentor” us all every week with your inspiration and openness. You truly are such a shining light!

    Alone is my jam. There is such a calm freedom in not having to “perform” and just letting your imagination go wild and take shape. Thank you again for the reminder and priority shift!ReplyCancel

    • November 21, 2018 - 11:43 am

      Gallagher Green - Most of Brooke’s post are like this for me, she seems to always know what we need to hear. It’s really her superpower. 🙂
      I checked out your work and love it! <3ReplyCancel

  • November 21, 2018 - 8:28 am

    Gallagher Green - Do you normally take photos in the same area of the roadway? I am just envisioning some commuter say “Hey look, camera girls out today.” LOL

    To me, failure is how the world works, all of it. Look at evolution, plants, animals, people, they all fail over and over, and evolution keeps making little tweaks and changes until success happens, this has been happening since the beginning of time. Who are we to now say “I can’t fail!” Fail is what made us all.

    I will take your bet! I will try to go one month without searching online! Of which I am sure I will fail at! But according to the post above that’s okay. 😉 LOLReplyCancel

  • November 21, 2018 - 11:36 am

    Gallagher Green - I forgot, as for being an “Adult” there is no such thing, and anyone who thinks they are is lying.
    I am nearly 31 years old and I hurt my shoulder a little bit a few nights ago while doing front rolls in the living room while swinging a fireplace poker.
    I was writing the last fight scene in my short story and needed to find out the best way to roll with a machete. I enjoyed the whole process quite a bit!ReplyCancel

  • November 21, 2018 - 11:56 am

    Karen Olson - Brooke I truly loved your video today and post. Having just lost my husband of 46 years I find myself feeling very much alone. But your post has given me much encouragement, as always. Fact is, I am proudly pushing forward in many ways artistically and owning it all! I will search deep inside for what wants to come out and do that!ReplyCancel

  • November 21, 2018 - 6:36 pm

    Jon Miller - Hi Brooke, I found this to be most enlightening. I work alone on my art shoots, I find I can think openly and freely, i.e. without judgment. I do use a model on 100% of my shoots and it may take me weeks to get to the shoot date. I prep my shoots way in advance and discuss with the model on several meetings how the shoot will proceed. I feel it’s important that the model I use to understand my vision as much as possible. Yes, I have my darkness that I’m asked about both from friends and professionals (due to an injury, I cannot walk far (max 200m) so they have me seeing a psych, who has taken a keen interest in my work). I do enjoy working alone, I think it’s due to what had happened in the past when everyone had an opinion that was not in sync with me and it just caused problems. Do I fail at my shoots, of course, I do, but those failures are not negatives they are lessons in what not to do again. or lessons in maybe I was a bit short-sighted and failed to look at the situation from other angles (meaning not be so stubborn in thinking it has to be done from a certain pov).
    Bottom line, I’m glad to have read this and as always you have given more food for thought… thanks and have a wonderful day.ReplyCancel

  • November 26, 2018 - 8:37 am

    Chrystal kelly - Hey Brooke! Yes you are right on the money, waiting to do something right gets in my way often, pausing to often makes me feel backed up, looking at other people’s work sometimes gets in the way of my own creativity, because I don’t want to be too influenced, as if the purity of my work will be effected(that’s why I didn’t look at any other photographers while I worked to develop my own style). I often miss being in school we’re i was pushed to create and get criticized, because that felt good and not so alone, I had a huge source of models to work with too. So I say yes to your do not search for a month, December is my bday month and it will be my depend on my brain month . I stopped using myself as a model because I have gotten older and gained weight… I did work really hard to loose the weight tho I can’t move the hands of time back, I am gonna give it a shot again, for my bday on December 3, I will be ….more then 40. Once again thank you for your ability to make so many myself included feel supported and understood!ReplyCancel

  • November 28, 2018 - 11:42 am

    Jim Duffin - “Stop searching the internet. Search your brain instead.” This is my biggest artistic hurdle, so simply stated. Thank yo for sharing your thoughts.ReplyCancel

  • December 15, 2018 - 1:50 pm

    Ronald Stein - This has been an interesting series and I must say very enjoyable!! One cannot see too much to get ideas and then figure out how to use them. You are correct about thinking outside the box in today’s world loaded with wanna-bes! One has to come up with their own style and you sure have!! Thanks for what you do and give out!!
    Ronald SteinReplyCancel

  • December 17, 2018 - 8:58 am

    Ana María - Al principio pensé que todo lo hacía mal, después de ver tus obras y leer tu blog sigo intentándolo. Muchas muchas gracias Brooke.ReplyCancel

  • March 10, 2019 - 9:20 am

    Beata Rydén - It was a long time since I visited your blog, Brooke, and I´m so happy I came here today. Thank you thank you THANK YOU for your inspiring words!!! Much of what you write are things I´ve thought about myself. I´ve been quite lost lately, about how to make a living and in what direction to take my art, but I´ve started to realise that I need to cut the outside world off in order to hear my own inner voice. Sometimes I feel like all the outside noise makes me loose my inner voice. I need to take breaks from social media from time to time in order to tune in with myself again. Also, I think it´s so true that other people don´t know. When I started in photography I had so much respect for the people already in the field. I tried asking people about how to do different stuff but I soon realised that no one knows. There is no manual!!! Lots of love from BeataReplyCancel

Read to end for a giveaway.

In the wake of the Sony Alpha Female grants being announced, a lot of people have written either to me or generally online about rejection. There are a lot of people hurting right now. It seemed like a good time to talk about rejection and share some of my experiences with it.

Here are my top 5 lessons about rejection, and some of my story.

I’ve had a long life of rejection. We all have. That’s life.
It started for me in school at a young age. I wasn’t a good traditional learner. I failed a lot of classes. I got bad grades. I tried harder than absolutely anyone I knew, and I still couldn’t keep up. I learned very young that I was going to fail a lot.
I couldn’t get into great (or even very good) colleges, I couldn’t pass tests, and (get this…) I even got a doctor note in college saying I didn’t have to take any tests because my memory was so bad. Seriously, that happened!

And then I became an artist, so I never got rejected again!

That’s when I really learned what rejection was, because suddenly it wasn’t coming from people and places I had to interact with, it was coming from places I desperately wanted to fit into but didn’t.

1. Let’s BIG PICTURE this deal.

First recognize that we are all in different phases: of our life, our maturity, our art, our self-discovery, our circumstances…everything. We are different ages, have been creating for different amounts of time, etc. I started submitting to contests and galleries and publications when I had been shooting for only 3 months. I was 22. I got rejection early on, and it ATE AWAY AT ME. I couldn’t sleep, would often cry or pout about it, and I felt like I couldn’t function. But you know what? I was a baby in my career! I had literally picked up a camera only 3 months prior!

Now that I’ve been submitting to things like this for 9.5 years, I’ve gotten better. Let me share how.

I realized that the big picture matters. If I don’t win something now, I recognize that another opportunity will come, another time that is more ripe for me. Another day, another year, another moment. This is just a drop in the hat. Let it pass like it should, without bother, but with acknowledgment.

2. Contests are SUBJECTIVE.

You may be in a very dark hole figuring out all of the reasons why you weren’t selected. Let me say this: you may never figure that out. And there may be no good reason. In this particular contest there were over 6,000 submissions. Judges in most contests have a ton of entries to go through. And from an insider perspective, a lot of them start to look the same. That is no fault of yours. It isn’t really a fault at all. It is just the nature of contests. You can only answer the same questions in so many ways.

But more to the point, the judges are real, live human beings. And based on who the judges are, certain entries will get more weight and others won’t. That is the nature of a contest. Someone has to judge it, and that person has to use their own sensibilities in the judging process.

You won’t match well with every juror. You won’t catch the eye of every person no matter how much you should.

Here is a great example. I judged a contest once with a brilliant person. We sat down to judge, and every time a fine art image would pop up, (and definitely anything remotely in my style), this person would dismiss it without really looking for the merit in it. It was frustrating, but also founded. This person was a judge, and if they didn’t like something, that was up to them no matter how “unfair” it may seem.

Just today I saw a contest I wanted to submit to, but lo and behold, that person was the judge for the contest! Needless to say, I passed. I know my work isn’t a fit for that juror.

I’ve had my work rejected from UMPTEEN (official term) contests. And there are times where I just cannot believe it. I am shocked. I was certain I’d get in. The only thing it can be chalked up to is a disagreement of taste.

One of my best friends taught me this saying in latin:

“De gustibus non est disputandum,”
“In matters of taste there can be no dispute.”

That sums it up perfectly.

3. Learn from your peers.

There are ways to get better at submitting to contests. There are so many reasons why an entry is dismissed from a contest. The most common one is the one I mentioned in #2. Taste cannot be predicted, and there is always a human juror at the other end. But then there’s real learning to be done. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What did the winners do that I didn’t, if anything?
  • Was my submission in alignment with the company or organization I submitted to?
  • Was my submission professional in terms of writing style, grammar, formatting?
  • Were my images unique and would they stand out of a crowd? Were they polished and professional?
  • Was my video in focus and did I present myself in an authentic way?

And of course, there are tons more questions you could ask. Most beneficially, you could get a focus group together and share submissions. Give feedback and get feedback about what they like and don’t like.

At the end of that process, if you still feel like you can’t figure out what went wrong (which I admit many, many will not be able to get a clear grasp), refer back to #2 again. It all goes back to that. And somehow, I find that really reassuring, if not infuriating. It’s the nature of the beast.

4. Put yourself in their shoes.

Imagine YOU are judging a contest. Imagine you have to look at 1,000 entries in one week. Aside from your brain going numb from the number of applications you have to read thoroughly, what else would you consider?

  • Did they follow the rules? If not, it’s probably out immediately.
  • Does this person stand out in some way? If not, it’s probably out.
  • Does this person present an opportunity to make you/your organization look interesting?
  • Is this person in alignment with your values?
  • What is this person’s probability for future success?

And then, honing in on a winner:

  • What message is this person sending?
  • Does their imagery represent something new or exciting?

I can honestly say that my work doesn’t tick all those boxes for everyone, and not even for most people. I can recognize that some (probably a lot) of my work is, in some way, generic and overdone. I can recognize that my brand doesn’t work well with a lot of other brands. I know that my message doesn’t always click with people. I understand that my work is polarizing, and it really doesn’t connect with people.

It is important that anyone submitting to contests recognize this about their work. That is NOT to say that your work isn’t unique, beautiful, interesting, worthy. It is to say that not every juror can choose every submission, so they have to choose what works best with their mission.

Put yourself in their position. It becomes easier to understand the difficulty of the selection process when you consider all of those criteria. How would you choose?

5. The hard part is over.

Submitting your work to anything is the hard part in and of itself. Except now, you have an extensive application already prepared for submission to other contests. So, after you’ve put the time in to critique your submission, get your booty in motion and get out there! Learn how to constantly revise and edit your images and writing, but most importantly, your message. Learn how to adapt YOURSELF to the contest at hand. Be smart about your submissions, but also be bold.

I recommend taking the hard work you’ve put in and the new skills you’ve learned by submitting it to other contests/grants/etc.

A similar position I was in: When I had my first exhibition I printed tons of images and then none of them sold. So, I had 15 prints sitting in my house and they had no where to go. I could have stopped exhibiting, but instead I submitted those prints to tons of shows that year and got to hang them in an additional 12 shows in 2010. That experience, quite literally, launched my career as a fine art photographer.

So take your hard won application materials and put them to work for you.

I want to mention, in an attempt to curb the emails I’m getting, that I didn’t get to judge the Sony Alpha Female contest until the very, very, very end. I was sent the final 15 contestants and still, my vote in that final round was counted against everyone else who was voting in the final round. It is extremely likely I won’t be able to tell you why you weren’t chosen because I wasn’t judging the vast majority of the entries.

That said…

I am opening up FIVE spaces to have
your entries critiqued in a group session.

I’ll do my best to share aspects of your submission that could have been beefed up so that in the future you’ll have a better chance of making it in.

Leave a comment below and let me know if you’d like your Sony Alpha Female application critiqued, and I’ll choose 5 people at random to join in.

I wish I could open it up further, but alas, time is short as I submit my own work to a myriad of different contests! 😀


With kindness and a push of inspiration to get yourself out there,


  • November 15, 2018 - 11:41 am

    Mary Bel - Thanks brooke, I took a leap of faith and I applied. Despite my hesitation and thinking I was not good enough to win, at least I’m proud to say I overcame my fear of rejection and still applied. I made a video and put myself out there, bearing my art and vision for the world to see. I wonder why I was rejected, but I know there is a purpose in everything that happens (or doesn’t happen) to us. Thank you for being a guiding light.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 11:44 am

    LINDSEY COHEN - Thank you for this valuable piece. Our greatest failures often lead to our greatest successesReplyCancel

    • November 15, 2018 - 2:28 pm

      Susan Bertram - Hi Brooke! Rejection is so hard. I didn’t win this time around, but I feel that means I’m a little closer for next time! I’d love a critique:). Thanks for all you do. And congratulations to the winners! ❤️ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 11:45 am

    Sarah - Thank you for this and I would love to be considered!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 11:48 am

    Yolanda Kingdon - Hello ,

    How are you ?
    I think it’s fantastic your giving those who didn’t make it a chance to have
    A professional view on their portfolio
    I’d love for you to take the time to look through my work

    My portfolio varies from pretty whimsical creamy bridal :
    Then I have my conceptual gallery which is emotionally driven
    & projects how I feel emotionally –
    Then I have my portrait gallery !

    I am working on my portfolio all the time even with me being in the
    Industry for 14 years ,

    I have 4 children – twin 2 year olds and a 7&9 year old – with NO FAMILY SUPPORT – what so ever !

    So yes I MAKE time by hiring nannies so I can work for my cliens & also work on my portfolio giving myself challenges

    Hope to hear from you

    Kind regards


  • November 15, 2018 - 11:49 am

    Sharlea Taft - I would love the opportunity to chat with you and learn how to improve my grant application. Thank you for sharing your time.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 11:49 am

    Leona Lynn Darnell - Thanks for this Blog post Brooke. I have never entered a contest before and this was a first. I figured go big or go home. lol! I put off the submission for long time. I chalked that up to my paralyzing feeling of not good enough. I buckled down though and I am proud of that accomplishment. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 11:53 am

    Jen Kiaba - Thank you for this pep talk Brooke! I remember watching a live broadcast of a show judging once and it was brutal. But it was also incredibly educational. So I love your idea of a focus group to help us build on the foundation of this application.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 11:55 am

    Qynn Valentynne - I tried to comment a book a couple of times and I guess the site isn’t having it, haha. This post means a lot to me as a non-finalist in the Sony Alpha Female contest. Chances are meant to be taken. If anything, this brought me back down to earth to take a harder look at my body of work and see what can be improved for the next chance I come across.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 11:57 am

    Lisa erickson - Thank you ❤️ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 11:57 am

    Kayli Kacoyannakis - Feel as though I’m not at a point on my path where someone is interested in walking beside me, helping, guiding, celebrating. I don’t do photography full time, I have 170K in student loan debt. I don’t have an established network yet. I don’t have the newest of gear, currently rocking an A5000. But all in all I don’t know how to start to get to all these things and desperately need a mentor. All the winners are beautiful and talented but also established, doing this full time, or even successfully making a living from it. It reaffirmed the fear that no company or person potential of sponsorship cares unless you’re at “that point”. Yet the spots leading up to that are where one needs the most help. I’ll continue to ask for the help no matter what though. Thank you so much for being you and uplifting some of us “underdogs” feeling like we never had a place to begin with in this contest.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 11:58 am

    Shannon Riley - Thanks Brooke, totally needed this. Between things like these and being smack in the middle of Grad school apps I’m really feeling it lately!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 11:58 am

    Talya Coviello - This is very inspirational. Thank you for writing about this because it’s definitely something I needed to hear today. I would love to be considered for the application critique. Have a wonderful day Brooke!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 11:59 am

    Lisa Underwood - Thank you for this! So true!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:01 pm

    brooke - Thank you for the pep talk. Would love to be considered for application critique:)ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:01 pm

    Michlynn Schweitzer - You are a wealth of knowledge and such a pillar of strength to so many. Love you to the moon and back xoReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:04 pm

    Aleah Ford - Thank you for writing this Brooke! Rejection or failure is always tough, but it helps pave the way for greater success in the future. I’d love a chance to have my application critiqued.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:04 pm

    Kristey Fritz-Martin - So much YES!!! Amazing pointers and such a great way to step outside of things and see different points of view!!! I can sit here and second guess my application all day but would love to know what other people would change and how to make it more impactful for future opportunities!! This was my very first real competition/grant I ever applied for and although I had great faith I knew mybidds were slim. The opportunity was incredible though and I know the 5 winners will change the industry!!! Thank you for putting this together Brooke! You rock big time!!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:06 pm

    Amanda - I would love a critique!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:07 pm

    Laura Bello - This was so helpful to read, especially the subjective part. It’s so hard to be rejected and not immediately have a mindset of “oh well I guess I suck then and nobody likes this”. I can have a problem with negativity and be overly critical of my own work. Losing doesn’t mean it’s not valuable, I think it’s like trying to find where your puzzle piece fits. People are receptive to their own type of artwork and you just have to find where you fit instead of trying to force it in the wrong place. Still it always hurts when someone doesn’t react how you’d expect haha. I wish I was better at not getting my hopes up so high. It’s weird, it’s like I will love and hate my work at the same time. This can help me grow but man is it exhausting. Still I would die for a critique of my SFA application! I’ve entered a few contests before but never anything as involved as a grant proposal like this. It makes me want to try again someday!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:11 pm

    Anna - You never cease to amaze me! I definitely want to have my Sony Alpha Female application critiqued and if you must, tear it apart hahaha.

    I also had a hard time with school when I was younger. English was my second language so I fell behind in school. My parents sent me to an American then British private school. While at American school, for me, it was all about proficiently learning a second language. Then, I was transferred to the British School in Caracas, Venezuela where my level of education by their standards was far behind. I worked hard but often times I was with the alternative group of students who needed to learn slower in Math and Science. Oh well, that is life. I am so happy that you shared this post.

    These tips that you share are so helpful in general. Wow! So much to think about 🙂ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:18 pm

    Brittany - Thanks for this perspective! I’d love to get some feedback on my submission!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:18 pm

    Heather hughes - I am definatly feeling bummed,not just that I wasn’t picked personally but that I didn’t see myself in the winners at all. It was a blow to my confidence for sure. I’d love an opportunity to be critiqued.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:22 pm

    Carey Estrada - Thank you so much for your encouraging words and for sharing your heart! This info is extremely helpful. I would value your insight on my Sony Alpha application. Thank you for all you do to help inspire other female artists.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:29 pm

    Yolanda Stewart - Reading this post definitely gave me some clarity. I would love to have my submission reviewed.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:32 pm

    Sofia Marcus-Myers - Thank you for this article! I would love for my application to be critiqued. XOReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:33 pm

    Nanette - Thank you so much for this blog post.

    It’s hard when we are waiting and hoping just to feel deflated in an instant it seemed. But putting it into perspective like you have, it makes it easier to breathe easy today and know that I did my best. I’m glad I applied and I’ll keep applying.

    The work of the judges was so very difficult. I wouldn’t have traded places with them for anything. I’m appreciative of their hard work.

    I would love to be considered for a critique of my Sony Alpha Female application. Thank you for the opportunity.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:33 pm

    Cassie - I wish I spent more time on my video and I’m in love with the work of the 5 winners! I want to grow so bad and just applying really helped me visually see where I want to be heading with my art!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:35 pm

    Kristi - Hello! Thank you for this! I would love a review to know how to better my application.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:37 pm

    Rochelle Haisley - Hi Brooke
    This is a great post. You’re a kind human being for doing this and we all
    appreciate it.I agree with what you said. I’m 42 years old now so rejection slides off a little easier but it still does sting. My heart broke a little bit not seeing my name but deep down I knew it would be miracle winning something like this. I can tell God wants me to fight for it, as I always have and always will. I will not give up.
    I would love to be considered for this. Standing out is important and I do feel my work is unique. Self portraiture is something not everyone can master. You have and I feel I am pretty good at it too in my own unique way. I still have a lot to learn but my foundation is solid.
    Thank you for your time. ♥️

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:38 pm

    Kristen Chipman - Brooke,

    What a great article! It is so kind of you to offer this opportunity.

    I have NEVER submitted my work before for ANYTHING, despite encouragement from a variety of sources to submit both my writing and my photography for years.

    This was a huge leap of faith, and I am not disappointed that I didn’t win because I’ve already learned so much (about myself and the process, and how I REALLY need to refine my vision, amongst other things).

    I’d love to hear a critique of my application, but I do already know that my submission video was pretty crummy, ha! I don’t do video at all really, so that was an unexpected (and honestly, AWFUL) challenge.

    Anyway. Thanks for this. I’m excited to see what you’re doing in the future! :O)ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:38 pm

    Alana Gordon - Thank you for taking the time to write this. It is incredibly insightful. I’ve chosen not to let myself get down about not being selected this time. It’s part of the journey and receiving a no can sometimes be more valuable than a yes. I’m here to learn and grow. I’ve thought long about how I could’ve improved my application and I definitely have some ideas but I’d love to have feedback from you as well. Please consider me for one of the 5 that you’d like to provide feedback to. Thank you! ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:38 pm

    Sofia Marcus-Myers - Thanks so much for this article! I would love to have my work critiqued. XOReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:43 pm

    Sharon Covert - Yes! I would love to have my submission critiqued by you. I’m trying to push myself harder and put myself out there more and submitting to this was HUGE for me. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I could do to improve my submission for next time!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:43 pm

    Stella Starr - Hi Brooke-
    Thank you for the thoughtful and kind words and offer for critique. I would love to have feedback on ways I can improve my application for future grants and contests.
    In gratititude,

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:43 pm

    Dana Ball - Thank you, Brooke! I’d love to have you critique my submission.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:50 pm

    Bettina - Love this post! I honestly didn’t feel rejected because I know there are so many good professionals out there, I just thought as a filmmaker the project would have at least one of the winners working with film not still photography.
    I would love to have you critic about my application, I know right from the start that my video could be way better but I thought you guys wanted something simple when you mentioned it could be done with a phone. After seeing the winners video applications I saw that was definetely not the case.
    Thank you Brooke for this post, it meant a lot!

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:52 pm

    Celia - Thank you SO much for putting this blog together! It’s helping me a lot to move on. I’m feeling driven to start again, thanks to you! An evaluation would mean the world since I plan to not give up 🙂ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:54 pm

    Naomi Woodman - Thank you for writing this article. Always nice to know you aren’t alone in your struggles. I would love to have the opportunity to hear your option on my application! Fingers crossed ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:54 pm

    Ashley Jacklyn - Thank you so much for this post, I wasn’t as disappointed as I thought I would be because this is just the beginning of what’s to come for us. But I can’t deny the truth that rejection really sucks, so thank you for your time to write such a heart opening blog post on your experiences and to help teach us. I would love to get critiqued by you if possible! I know mine wasnt as polished and prepared but it was all heart and sometimes that’s more important than anything!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 12:59 pm

    Kristine - Making the video was the hardest part. I wanted to talk about the ceiling collapsing and destroying my studio last year and my mentor dying of cancer. However I was advised by my friends to leave that out. Honestly I wish I just mentioned it regardless.

    Instead I focused on what I do for a living for 13 years as a full time commercial photographer. However in life we are always facing challenges and presentation is everything.

    I would like a critic on my presentation, so that in the future I can present myself better.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 1:08 pm

    Emily White - What a great reminder for artists, rejection is definitely a huge part of the process,(as I’m learning from all the rejection emails I receive haha), but it also gives a great opportunity for growth.
    I submitted to alpha female and would love the chance to have my application critiqued.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 1:15 pm

    Jennifer Arnold - I’d love to have my submission critiqued! That would help me know how to make future submissions better! I know my video sucked lol. Next time, I’m taking myself out of the equation lol. I hate being on cameraReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 1:21 pm

    Aralie Hoskins - I️ am ready to start full speed ahead and push for new opportunities! Thanks for this post.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 1:33 pm

    Anastasia Wilde - Thank you for this opportunity! I’d love to be considered.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 1:33 pm

    Rebecca LaChance - In viewing the videos/stills submitted by the winners, it was obvious to me that they had a “handle” on submissions that I didn’t.

    I need to “raise the bar” for myself, yet, I’m not exactly sure of the specifics I need to improve.

    I would REALLY appreciate learning so I can improve. I want any future entries by me to be gob-smackers!

    And, I just can’t imagine how overwhelming it must have been to winnow the thousands of entries!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 1:37 pm

    Eva Saunders - Thank you so much, Brooke for uplifting all of us who applied at every step of the process! Since I found out about your work through the mentor section of the contest, you have become such a role model for me! After writing down my submission, I knew what I needed to do. I started finding other ways to get closer to my goal in the meantime, without any money from a grant or any approval from a judge or another person. So I dived into a different project that had been in the back of my mind for some time. It was so relievung to just create and rid oneself from expectations and judgement!! Thank you for being so honest with your struggle on the path to success and self-expression! Of course, I would love to hear your take on my submission, though, because I think the subject matter of a dark fairytale movie will resonate with you very much and I went in asking for you as a mentor ^^

    All the best!

  • November 15, 2018 - 1:40 pm

    GAIL MOONEY - Brooke,

    Thank you for your beautiful post. Generous, thoughtful and right on target. I would appreciate the opportunity of having my submission critiqued.


  • November 15, 2018 - 1:43 pm

    Karima - Bless you for this post. I love your style, heart, and openness. This contest has brought me so much growth!
    I’d love to have my entry critiqued. Your a gem. As we all are, thanks for helping us learn to shine.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 1:45 pm

    Eva Saunders - Thank you so much, Brooke for uplifting all of us who applied at every step of the process! Since I found out about your work through the mentor section of the contest, you have become such a role model for me! After writing down my submission, I knew what I needed to do. I started finding other ways to get closer to my goal in the meantime, without any money from a grant or any approval from a judge or another person. So I dived into a different project that had been in the back of my mind for some time. It was so relieving to just create and rid oneself from expectations and judgement!! Thank you for being so honest with your struggle on the path to success and self-expression! Of course, I would love to hear your take on my submission, because I think the subject matter of my dark fairy tale film proposition will resonate with you very much. That’s why I asked for you as a mentor, too!

    All the best!

  • November 15, 2018 - 2:05 pm

    Aubrey Garwood - This is exactly what I needed to read. Thank you so much for taking your time to inspire this community. Honestly seeing you as a mentor was one of the main reasons I wanted to enter for the grant. Even though I was not accepted I feel I have already gained something invaluable, confidence and a renewed determination. My passion is conceptual fine art photography. In terms of putting bread on the table it is not an easy sell. I have dabbled in self portraiture, but have always limited this type of work since I have been taught it is untenable to create a career from it. Seeing your work inspires me and gives me to confidence to keep creating. It would be lovely to hear from you personally on what I could improve upon, but if not that is fine. I have gotten so much from this process and you. I loom forward to following your work! Thank you Brooke!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 2:14 pm

    Lisa Link - Dear Brooke,

    Thank you for sharing this with the Facebook group. Helped put it all in perspective. So inspiring to know there are such generous thoughtful people out there. I loved reading your post above – really helpful.

    Thanks for entering me in the submission critique random drawing – would be grateful for any feedback.

    Have a good day,


  • November 15, 2018 - 2:15 pm

    Brittany - Hey Brooke,

    Thank you for this and I would love to be considered. It has been so emotionally taxing for me lately getting so close to the finish where I can almost feel it and then swept back to sea.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 2:17 pm

    Desiree R Luedecke - Hey Brooke!

    I love that you’re so in tune with things that you chose to write this blog post. I was definitely feeling it after the news came out. It’s so funny because literally, this morning when I was driving to work, I was thinking out loud to myself (as I usually do ), and I said “Okay, but why?? I just wish I could know what I can do differently to succeed” should there be a next time, and lo and behold, here we are! I hope to get picked for the critique, however I understand now after your blog post that it’s okay if I’m not all the same. All the love to you!


  • November 15, 2018 - 2:21 pm

    Barb Gonzalez - This is a great post. I think #4 is the most important. Like a job interview, how can you sell yourself. I think this is my biggest problem, but maybe if I’m chosen, you can give me other perspective.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 2:25 pm

    Debby Mittelman - Thank you so much for your insight and perspective! I would love the opportunity to have you critique my application!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 2:25 pm

    Jennifer Langille - Fingers and toes crossed to be randomly selected! 🙂
    In my imagination I’ve won and holding self accountable to executing my application’s pitch for next six months.
    I am absolutely trying to take the time invested into the application materials and reinvest the energy. A critique would be incredible! Thank you Brooke!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 2:31 pm

    Dave - I recently felt the sting of rejection too. I tried to take it in stride and was back to an even keel in about 30 seconds. I knew when I entered that it was a possibility to not get in. And that was what happened. When I got the news, I remembered back to the times I’ve judged very small shows. My experience has been that about half the entries are easily dismissed in the sense that they didn’t match the guidelines or were clearly not up to par at first glance. Then the remaining half there were about half that were clearly superior to the other half. That left about 25% that met all the criteria and were wonderful works. And I had to narrow them down to 5, or 10 “selects”. That’s when it got really so much harder. The photos were great but, I had to eliminate so many…. On a different day, or in a different mood, I might have chosen different ones for the final cut, but, that was just what struck me that day.

    The hard part is being the person that had to say “no” to even the ones that were easily dismissed. There is someone, someplace, that thought that was their best work and it was being rejected. I was aware of that too.

    Based on that experience and history, I’m never upset at the judges. They have tough jobs. I just resolve to see what they chose and keep that in mind for my next entries…

    Thanks for this awesome post and the support you give the community.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 2:33 pm

    Emily - Thank you for doing this!! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 2:54 pm

    Jamie love - Thank you for this amazing post. I can imagine it being so helpful for everyone who applied and wasn’t chosen. I was one of those people. I deeply trust in Divine timing and fully understand my opportunity will come when it’s supposed to. That said, I would absolutely love a critique on my submission. I always value feedvack which could help me learn and grow for next time around. 🙂 Thank you so much for the opportunity!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 3:00 pm

    Eva - So true about judges being people with different tastes. I just participate in a local photo competition there were so many amazing entries and the one that one was so boring! I couldn’t believe it. I was disappointed not because I lost but because many others deserved to win. I realized I would never win in their element. It was liberating, a good reminder to not be so serious, to judge the room so to speak.ReplyCancel

    • November 15, 2018 - 3:07 pm

      Eva - PS forgot to add, the Sony Joe just did a really good job. I’m looking forward to following the winners journeys.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 3:00 pm

    Vanessa Picard - Hi Brooke,
    Thank you for taking the time to lift us up. Not uniquely, I am also no stranger to rejection. What I want, what I need is to be critiqued. Really critiqued. Where am I missing the mark? I have participated in image reviews through PPA and invariably end up frustrated when the reviewer says he or she has no idea why my images scored the way they did. I know it boils down to taste, but surely I’m doing something wrong…
    Anyhoo, I sure hope I’m randomly selected and, if not, thank you again for being such an amazing leader in this field.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 3:01 pm

    Kapu - Put yourself in their shoes…..u nailed it. that is the hard part though. Thank you for writing this. Thank you for your generous offer to critique our applicationReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 3:01 pm

    Bet - What a great read and reminder to keep on, keeping on. This is so sweet of you! I’d love the chance to have you look at my app. You are who inspired me to get in front of the camera!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 3:06 pm

    Ghia Larkins - Thank you Brooke for this ❤️ Truly a learning experience for me and so glad I stepped out of my own comfort zone to even submit-ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 3:09 pm

    Jennifer Kaczmarek - Brooke it was wonderful to discover you through this process. A critique from you would be greatly appreciated. I would value your opinion. I agree and understand the points you have laid out. I hope to be considered. Thank you – JennReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 3:47 pm

    Danielle - Thank you so much for sharing this! I would absolve your critique! I only learn and grow by being open to knowing what I could have done better.

    Danielle TrinaReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 3:50 pm

    Nicole - This really helped put my mind at ease, because I thought I just wasn’t good enough, but I didn’t really think about other people’s taste. Not everyone is going to like what I do — and that’s okay. I appreciate hearing this from you, given your experience! I would love to have my application critiqued if at all possible. Thank you for your time and your insight!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 3:54 pm

    Hannah Munroe - Hi Brooke! Yes, I’d like to have my application critiqued in a group session with you! Thank you for taking the time to do this and for posting the above suggestions/recommendations and points! -HannahReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 4:17 pm

    Erin Yuen - Brooke thank you for your constant creative encouragement! I love your advice and wisdom in this post. It is encouraging to know that rejection will keep on coming. I love your advice of seeing rejection for what it is and to learn something each time. It’s hard because we put so much of who we are into our work that it’s easy to feel like we personally are being rejected, even though that is not the case. I remember enduring art critics in college and I have to say sometimes they were brutal but I always learned something valuable. The Sony Alpha Female contest was the first thing I have entered since graduating art college 13 years ago and the first time I have every submitted photography. I would love to have you critic my submission and get some quality feedback. I also love your idea of creating a critic group so I’ll be sending some messages to a few artists I know to see if they are interested. Thank you for your kindness, generosity, and inspiration.

  • November 15, 2018 - 4:19 pm

    Kelly Ngo - This is a thought provoking read. I am inspired as ever to create more work and continue to grow as a creator. I’d love my submission reviewed as well!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 4:20 pm

    Rebekah Dow - Brooke,

    Thank you for being a mentor to all of us with this post. My work has a long way to go, but I figure if you can help me get the soil right, I’ll plant more seeds and let nature and time do the rest. As a filmmaker, I think you’d be a great subject matter expert for the rest of us film and cinematographers to glean from.
    BTW: I wish I had your skills in set construction! That was one of my favorite things to learn from the rest of these ladies: how they faked it til they made it! I’m so not crafty, so if you find time one day to do a tutorial on building stuff, I’d love it! Until then, reruns of Home Improvement will keep me busy. Ha!

  • November 15, 2018 - 4:22 pm

    Tanya Mills - Thank You for your amazing words. I have to admit today has been extremely difficult. All of my emotions poured out today – heart break,frustration, sadness, all in one foul swoop!!! Not been a great day. I know tomorrow is a new day, but today I had to allow myself time to be sad, time to cry, get my emotions out. I keep thinking of a song I learned when I was a child – “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” This is the hard part. I admit, today, on several occasions I said to myself it would be easier to give up photography all together. Why put myself out there only to be completely heart broken – hopes completely dashed – I know better than to believe those thoughts. It might take me a little longer to recover from this disappointment, but I will recover. Thank you for all the honest posts about how you are feeling. I know I am not alone in this process. I look forward to getting to know everyone in this group even more
    now. Thank you for considering me for the critique. TanyaReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 4:29 pm

    Danielle Vick - Count me in!
    Brooke, this is awesome. Thank you so much for your insights and for understanding and taking the time to acknowledge how so many of us may be feeling right now. What gives me comfort in not having been selected was that I looked at those who were and they were incredibly impressive and they deserved to win. I congratulate them and wish them the best as they go through this program. I will be excited to see their progress. They are already so good.
    While I recognize the difference in my submission and those who were selected, Please count me in for the possibility of having my submission critiqued!

  • November 15, 2018 - 4:31 pm

    Ajira - Brooke,

    Thanks for this post. I love that you’re talking about this. I applied, even though I didn’t have enough time to create what I wanted and decided to give it a shot regardless so I could have the practice and on the off chance that the judges would be as enthralled by my project as I am.

    I was totally gutted when I realised I wasn’t chosen. Probably more so because the announcement was on my birthday and of course I took that to be a sign from the universe, lol! Anyway, by this morning I’d decided that I want to learn from this and do better the next time I apply.

    I would be thrilled if you’d critique my application.

    Thanks so much for offering this as one of the worst aspects of applying for these grants etc is the lack of feedback that we could build on!

    Thanks again!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 4:31 pm

    Emma Boswell - Me.me.me!!!!!pick me!!!!!‍‍‍‍ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 4:37 pm

    Samantha Goss - Scared but I’ll try for a critique lol it’s funny you write this because years ago I wrote a blog about dealing with rejection as well. It happens all the time, even to the most amazing artists. The first good few really do sting but after a while you just become super immuned to it haha. Some things hurt more than others based on what you’re wanting out of whatever you’re applying for, but eventually you’ll grow thick skin. I know I did. That’s why the Sony rejection didn’t hurt as much.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 5:06 pm

    Mykle Parker - Yo! Yo! Absolutely, as brutal as a crit is I need one. That whole, “having a baby and life goes on hold and you loose-I still don’t know how to articulate it” sure did take its tole. Hope you are enjoying being back at home in your own bed! Xoxo, mReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 5:07 pm

    Sofia - Thanks for the insight! Pick me! 😉ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 5:16 pm

    Melanie - Hi Brooke! As always, you know just the right things to say and the perfect way to give people the encouragement to follow their dreams! I’d love a critique if you have a spot open. I’m pretty sure I totally misunderstood what they wanted for the video lol. I heard talk to the camera and show personality so that’s what I did. My next one will be much more polished 🙂ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 5:22 pm

    Nicole Nason - We tend to be our own worst critic. When we put forth a portrait of authenticity, without the whole story our content could be drowned out from loss of personality and voice; if we forget to share authentic stories that matter, we lose sight of what we are meant to create. I’m an award winning independent filmmaker but that does not define me or my success. Success is not found by mere accomplishment and acceptance. Success is overcoming obstacles, becoming more aware of who you are no matter how challenging it may be to take the critical but you can then make rejection into beauty. Every success is not without setbacks.
    The premiere of Deeper, my first documentary, was on the night of the application due date. I’m a procrastinating perfectionist. So it only made sense that my computer blacked out two hours before the showing. I didn’t have a instant fix, I borrowed a family members computer, pieced it together, didn’t have the right hdmi, there are a million excuses I could find; but, when you hear the stories and are entrusted to tell them well, you always find a way.
    I’m currently creating and posting content consistently to get better working independently full time in addition to the 8 to 5. You don’t need the best gear, just stories to tell and a passion to capture them.
    My next leap of faith is an independent documentary about township at risk youth overcoming unthinkable obstacles through surfing and skating. I hope you’ll read about it on the website: nikkicolesurfer.com.
    I’ve still got a lot to figure out before then and will greatly appreciate and apply any advice given. Thanks so much!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 5:55 pm

    Molly - I would love the opportunity to hear feedback. ❤️ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 6:03 pm

    Veronika Rae Richardson - I would very much love the chance to have my application critiqued! How generous of you!! Thank you for your consideration and all the hard work you put into the contest. ❤️❤️ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 6:10 pm

    Carolyn - Hello Brooke,
    I would love the opportunity to have my Sony Alpha Female Grant Application critiqued once again so I can better myself in what I may lack.
    Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 6:14 pm

    Charlene - Brooke, Thanks for the opportunity to learn how we can improve ourselves as artists and further elevating the field of female photographers. I would love to have this chance for feedback.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 6:30 pm

    Deborah Courson - I think the hardest part of rejection for me is not knowing why. I tend to understand things better when I have more detail (my left brain really likes the facts), but with these type of scenarios one receives little to no feedback. The subjectivity of the judges is a very important factor. I’ve tried to rationalize using the fact that I simply wasn’t what they were looking for when I am unable to get real answers as to why. I would very much appreciate having my Sony Alpha Female application critiqued to help answer the why for me and help me improve on this front.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 7:01 pm

    Amanda trueworthy - Thank you for sharing your experience and providing this opportunity for growth. Submitting for the Sony Alpha Female grant was so difficult for me. This was the first contest I have entered. I had no idea what to say or which images to submit. I am not hurt that I wasn’t chosen but I would like to know how to improve my chances in the future.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 7:11 pm

    Reagan Williams - Hi there, I would love to get some feedback. I realized too late that I just missed the age limit before turning in the application, but feedback would be so helpful for the future. And thank you for the tips above!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 9:54 pm

    Brilynn - Thanks so much for offering the critiques and I’d love to take you up on that!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 9:59 pm

    May Yam - Thanks for the encouragement and for offering to critique our submissions. I would really benefit from that as I’m also submitting to other grants too.ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 11:32 pm

    Rachel Bracker - Thank you Brooke for taking the time to write this. Your advice to be bold has really struck me…. I will carry that with me into my next application (because you’re right, now is the time to keep pushing forward!)ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 11:34 pm

    Kailee Morris - Hey Brooke!
    This is so awesome! Thanks for putting rejection in words that make sense and can be relatable for us all. You inspire me everyday and I love following your work on Instagram! I feel I am only getting started in this field and my career and I am sure it had a lot to do with why I did not win the grant. But, I am so determined to continue to learn, grow and find my place as I go after my goals! I face boundaries every day but I never want to give up. I would love an opportunity to have my submission evaluated by you – it would mean the world!
    Never stop creating & hope to hear from you!

  • November 16, 2018 - 12:00 am

    Maria Farmere - Hi Brooke, I love that you are doing this. Good for us all to know what to expect with these kind of contest. Myself, I’ve only been into photography for six years. Crohn’s disease, surgery, then a car crash injury over the handful of years slowed me down when I was just starting to get rolling. I’ve had to re-learn some things a few times. But this is my passion and one day I hope to support myself with it, as well as to create the art, show the world the beauty that can be found in it. I have only ever submitted my photos or poetry a few x over the years. After 19 years writing poetry I submitted a book proposal for an anthology last year and was also met with rejection. At least the letter they sent was kind and explained that my work was good, it just didn’t work per say for their target audience.
    I have to say I was dreaming I’d get considered for the Sony Alpha contest, but it didn’t happen. So as always I’ll keep plugging away. Since I’ve been met with rejection now a few x, I’ll learn from it and attempt to put my best work forward in future. In terms of my video and application, I only found out about the opportunity like the day before the deadline. I’ve never taken a video of myself and I’m terribly shy. Self portraits where you are doing anything but looking at the camera head on are much different lol. Unfortunately I also had a sinus infection. So I wasn’t the best me at the time, however I tried to say how I felt to the best of my ability. I really appreciate Sony putting the opportunity out there, and wish all the best to the five selected on their journey. Hopefully there will be more chances in future to all of us. I also must say I’ve been following your work for five years, and I started taking your courses on creative live three years ago just before my car crash. I’ve only just taken them up again, and I chose to take your courses out of the 26 classes I own on the site, because of your passion and enthusiasm, it re-inspires my own passion in what I do. I’d love to have my application critiqued for any benefit to future attempts. Thanks so much Brooke, you are a beautiful soul. ❤️ ~Maria


  • November 16, 2018 - 12:06 am

    Sarah Fretwell - Great article. I would love to do a feedback session with you. Thank you so much for offering your time!ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 12:40 am

    Kassandra Lynne - Hey Brooke, thank you for posting this article. Rejection is definitely a big part of our successes and we can learn from this times and grow. I put a lot of work into my application and the project I have submitted I intend to still start this year after doing a lot of the groundwork over the last few years here in New Zealand. I want to take a fine art / photojournalism approach to documenting the healing traditions of indigenous cultures starting with the Maori people here in NZ. The work I submitted I believe described Be Alpha to me and I had my application reviewed by several peers before submitting… All considered it a very strong application… I was definitely very confident. But I can imagine there were some amazing photographers and projects in the applications as well. Would love to have you review my submission! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 1:12 am

    Nika - I’d love to get a critique by you. Thank you for the offer.

  • November 16, 2018 - 2:10 am

    Els Aartse - Dear Brooke, thank you for letting us see how this contest-, and judgingthing works. Being aware of this process there will be more understanding for rejection. Really I can understand when someone feels rejected but isn’t it
    also about being able to have the oppertunity to participate because of this contest. You can learn a lesson from this. Be proud of yourself for daring to submitting your work. And even if you don’t win you have won already because of making art and daring to show the world what you have to say with your art. Never let rejection stop you from believing in yourself. With kind regards.
    Els Aartse from the Netherlands ❤️ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 2:48 am

    Bonnie - I knew I wasn’t a contender but I’m glad I submitted. I’m ok with that. I did it. And it helped clarify what I want to do next. My use of the grant money was purely selfish…I didn’t have any grand plan to save the world. But I wrote from my heart what was holding me back.
    I believe there were other reasons for submitting. One is the women I’m learning about who also submitted.ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 5:34 am

    Demetria Bitjoka - I remembered reading during the submission process that winners would be notified in October so the announcement wasn’t a shock in learning I wasn’t selected. It hurt the same though. For a split second I felt that grief from rejection trying to take away everything good about the whole program; jealousy , frustration, disappointment, the whole nine. I had to quickly shed that and remember to be proud of myself. Submitting my work was a huge step for me and I’m hoping that I’ll start submitting to more contests and critique groups. I realize this will only make me better.
    That said, I’d love to have my application reviewed and if you can share a growth path for someone willing to learn, I’d love to know!!! Thank you so much for your writing!ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 5:42 am

    Erica Hartwig - Great blog Brooke! I think this amazing that you are still trying to help others who didn’t make it learn and grow to better themself. I would love some feedback.ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 6:13 am

    Malia Rae - Brooke!!! Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been putting myself out there more than ever and the rejection has been coming in more than ever! Doing my best to focus on the positive that the rejection also means I am stepping up and trying my best. I would LOVE to have some feedback to be able to focus on what, and how I can improve. This morning I was meditating on the What if’s… What if pain isn’t punishment, and what if rejection isn’t the end? Would be fantastic to get your opinion and input on my Sony Alpha Female application.
    Heart Forward ~ MaliaReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 6:18 am

    Malia Rae - Brooke!!!!! Thank you for sharing all of this. I would LOVE your feedback on my application to help me focus on what I can improve moving forward.ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 6:47 am

    Christina - Thank you for offering to open some spaces for critique. I submitted a project of emotions women experience while journeying through parental grief. I would love for you review my work.ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 7:45 am

    Conni - I was so hoping you could be my mentor. I think the winners are all amazing and have their sh*t together much more than I do. I think my mistake was in believing Sony was looking for women who needed a push, a hand up, extra time, a new camera…. all of the winners already should be Sony ambassadors. Instead, there are still 9 women and 51 men listed as light ambassadors. Before the announcement of winners, there were 15 male Instagram posts before an image from one of the winners.
    That being said, I know my entry looked nothing like theirs but I would welcome a review if only to pick your brain just a little. Thank you for writing thisReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 7:46 am

    Anita Watkins - I was in a mini workshop at WPPI with you in 2017. My friend was a huge fan of yours and had taken your workshop so I was intrigued. What I remember best was your sense of play, humility and passion. With all the hard work you do, no wonder you have reached this level of success! You are a kick ass Sony Alpha Female. Thank you for providing this opportunity. This was my first submission and I won’t love some feedback.ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 8:58 am

    Keda Sharber - I would LOVE for my SAF submission to be critiqued. Thanks for the opportunity.ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 9:20 am

    Maureen C. Berry - Hi Brooke,

    What a wonderful, inspirational post. Rejection does suck! But there’s nothing like putting yourself out there, so much excitement, anxiety, and yet a sense of accomplishment, even with rejection looming at every submission.

    Thanks so much for breaking this process down. Number 4 resonated with me, the other side of the coin and all. And of course number 2! I love a good list. Thanks for this opportunity.ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 9:33 am

    Laura Lechner - Thank you for sharing this. As an “emerging” artist (to use grant speak), I’ve applied for what seems like countless opportunities, and have experienced a lot of rejection. It’s very frustrating, and while I feel like each experience is valuable (in terms of helping me clarify my goals and make my projects that much more clear for myself), it is disheartening to feel like my work isn’t worthy of recognition. I would love to the opportunity to receive a critique of my SAF application, as I’m going to continue to seek out grants and other funding possibilities; having someone whose work I respect A LOT give me some feedback would be fantastic.ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 10:26 am

    Carlene Kanellis - Hi Brooke, this is awesome! I’d love to be considered!ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 10:58 am

    Carolyn A. Kamuda - Hi Brooke. Very nice article on rejection. I’ve been in sales all my life before starting a career in photography but having our artwork rejected somehow feels different. But I have been fortunate to have won 3 pretty nice grants in the past by what I thought was sheer luck. But in the end it’s about putting yourself out there and hoping for the best. I thought my application was put together too fast and I didn’t really give it the time necessary as I heard about the contest late in the game. They key now is to be more proactive and plan and schedule my applications (just like I did in my other sales business). But I would like a critique of my application. I’d like your opinion. And just ignore the video. That was just plain lame.

    Carolyn A. KamudaReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 10:59 am

    Erin Berry - Brooke,

    Thank you so much for your honesty. I knew I didn’t have much of a chance, and I know in my soul I didnt give my application my all. I kept my hopefulness down, but the daydreaming is what got to me. It was more of a sting than I thought to have not been chosen. I still feel my work is as good as it can be for right now, and I am always learning and growing, but it hurts because I was daydreaming of an opportunity to make a difference in what I believe to be righs to enter.ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 11:40 am

    Tori Meyers - Thank you Brooke, This Blog post is so well written. Thank you for all the pointers. I will definitely use them to self critiqued my contest submission.
    I’d love a chance to have my application critiqued by You. Thank you for you time. Have a wonderful week.ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 12:15 pm

    Tori Meyers - Thank you for trying to help us make better applications. It’s so hard to know what would be a stand-out application of just too much over the top. I definitely want to be ready for the next contest or grant I come across.
    I would LOVE for my SAF submission to be critiqued.ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 1:21 pm

    Eleonora Barna - Thank you Brook. Your words and genuine care are truly heard deep within my soul. What gives me solace is knowing that the 5 women chosen are experiencing happiness and gratitude.ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 1:30 pm

    Eleonora Barna - Thank you Brook. Your words and genuine care are heard deep within my soul. What gives me solace is knowing that the 5 amazing women chosen are experiencing happiness and gratitude. I would love valuable opportunity to have my application critiqued. Knowing how to get better and move on forward is immense.ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 1:31 pm

    Gallagher Green - Holy monkey this is a lot of comments! 😮
    Great post though, and I know all of the artists that entered Sony grant have long successful careers in art ahead of them!
    Sending every one of you love! <3 <3 <3ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 1:41 pm

    Jenna - Heck yes to feedback!
    I feel like I had a completely different reaction to the process than the ones I’m reading on FB. For me, I can often talk myself out of asking for what I want completely, even before I start. Despite some struggles, a definite want to quit 1/2 way through and overthinking what the panel of judges were looking for, I was so fuggin jazzed that I committed to the PROCESS of applying and pushed through. I’ve never applied for a grant and at the end of the day, I was just impressed with myself for doing it – riding the wave that came with it instead of stopping because I was uncomfortable.ReplyCancel

  • November 16, 2018 - 2:11 pm

    Jenna - I feel like I had a completely different reaction than most people are posting about on FB. I have a tendency to completely count myself out before the ship’s even left the harbor, so I made the commitment to myself to follow through. To fight through the doubt, to not talk about what I want to do and not actually be brave enough to try, and ride the wave that was feeling competent to feeling like an imposter. While of course the winning would have been incredible, the actuality that I completed what I set out to do and got a little more clear on why I do what I do, was amazing in & of itself.

    And heck yes to feedback!ReplyCancel

  • November 17, 2018 - 10:55 am

    Annemie - Thanks for this and for offering feedback… sometimes this business feels like driving with a blindfold on!ReplyCancel

  • November 17, 2018 - 12:20 pm

    Teresa Castracane - How kind of you, Brooke. I would love to put my name in the hat to receive your critique.ReplyCancel

  • November 20, 2018 - 2:15 am

    Denesa Chan - Thank you for your beautifully written article and offer of support. I would love to throw my hat in the ring for feedback and deeply appreciate the opportunity.

    To all of us: together we rise!ReplyCancel

  • November 20, 2018 - 9:29 pm

    Lauren Baisden - Thanks for your post! Would love to have feedback.ReplyCancel

  • November 26, 2018 - 3:04 pm

    brookeshaden - Thank you all for your amazing insights into this topic. I am very honored to share this space with you. The 5 randomly chosen winners for the mentoring call are:

    Heather Hughes
    Alana Gordon
    Sharon Covert
    Eva Saunders

    You have been notified via email with details.


  • December 10, 2018 - 10:38 am

    The 9 biggest lessons I learned from applying for the Sony Alpha Female Creator-In-Residence program - Photo Thrive - […] of writing my first grant and the mindset going into it. Brooke Shaden wrote a great post on rejection but she approaches her writing from the perspective of things to think about from the other side of […]ReplyCancel

  • December 17, 2018 - 9:04 am

    Ana María - Sería un tremendo honor poder compartir contigo un pedacito de mi pequeño trabajo. Saludos.ReplyCancel

Yesterday in my ceramics class I started work on a new sculpture. My studio-mates know I’m weird and creepy, this has been well established. (If you follow my IG stories, you know all about the skull head and the spine woman.) Yesterday someone asked me why I create dark art. It threw me off because I thought it was a joke to them. I answered in my awkward, socially-anxious way, by mumbling something about thinking darkness is interesting. But then she asked me to speak up because she really was curious. I explained that to me, life is more beautiful when it is balanced with light and dark. That struggle, sacrifice, grief, death, decay…I find it mysterious, in some ways untouchable, and that itself is beautiful.
I am a person that can be awed by everything very easily, but darkness…It captures not only my joy such as a vibrant sunset would, but my equally primal and more acute sense of what is earthly and wondrous about our world. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say why I find images such as this one – suffocating, suffering, being reborn – so beautiful. But I do, and it is something deep within me that is clear as day.

And that might be weird, and creepy, and far too easy to make fun of. My friend Katrin recently warned me against trivializing what I do by categorizing it as simply “weird”, and the more I think about it, the more I agree – it is too easy to laugh off some of what I do because it is awkward to have open conversations about why I find death beautiful. But here we are, having that conversation, because creating is important to me, and dare I say, to some others as well.
There is a certain allure for me to the dark. It stems from being afraid of everything from the time I was little. It is rooted in my fear, which has been debilitating in certain ways. When I was really little I was afraid of every thing you can think of – the dark, certainly, but more than that. I really, really believed in unbelievable things. I thought that to not believe would offend the creatures of the dark. I’ve never let that type of fear go. In some weird way, I’ve held on to it beyond reason as I thought my creativity and imagination was tied up with that fear. That if I let the fear go, my imagination would go with it. I consider my imagination, and my ability to believe in everything, a point of pride.
Part of my work comes from exploring what that darkness has to offer. Sort of this way of thinking: if I am not willing to let go of my childhood fears, then I might as well get to know them really well.
And what a journey that has been. It has taken me deep into the weird and macabre, into the strange and untouchable. It has led me to create grotesque art and surreal art, dark fairy tales and just darkness.
It is one of the great challenges of our lives to explain, with certainty, why we are who we are. I don’t think I ever will. I can’t point to one event that made me this way, or one influence or inspiration. Key moments stand out to me. My first recurring dream, for example, where I was shot in the head and killed when I was only 4. I don’t know why that dream began or why it visited me over and over again in my childhood, but it did. Whether it was the death of my cat or of my grandmother, a vivid memory (or was it a dream?) of my cousin playing a trick on me and shutting me in a room full of coffins at my great-uncle’s funeral…
Memories. Dreams. Ideas that stick. It doesn’t matter if our influences really happened or if our mind made them up. They are who we are. And there are too many to count. We are too big to define. We are too many pieces put together to understand how the whole became what it is.
But through art, we try. I try. I create what I want, when I want to create it, because that is my way of working out who I am. And I love it. I genuinely love dark art and creating something with darkness.
Yesterday in my ceramics class I started a new sculpture. I drew it out first and showed those who asked to see. It is a girl wrapped in cloth with a blindfold over her eyes, blood dripping down her cheeks. Someone asked me if it had to be blood. “Couldn’t you make it green or purple or some nice color instead?” she asked.
I smiled at her. She doesn’t know me yet. She doesn’t know that once I have an idea, I’d move mountains before changing it. She doesn’t know about my obsession with blood…yet. She doesn’t know about how much I love symbolism, and purple blood just doesn’t do it for me. But she will.
As I smiled at her, I said “no” and we let it be. Though later I conceded black might be a nice blood color, and that made her happy.

So much of White Wall Wednesday is about exploring who we are in the comfort of our home without any expectation. It is about experimenting and trying and failing and being willing to acknowledge where we are right now.
This week I challenge you to see old things in new ways. Walk around your home and pick something up that you would normally walk past. Ask yourself what it could be instead of what is.
And I’d really like to hear from you: What is the thing in your art that you have a hard time explaining?
If you use the hashtag #WhiteWallWednesday …I’m following the tag on Instagram and can’t wait to see what you’re making. I’m thinking about featuring some of the images I find that way in each week’s blog!
  • November 14, 2018 - 11:19 am

    AnneLou Robkin - Brooke, thank you for articulating the fascination and joy found in “The Dark side.” I, too, have favored the weird and even the macabre, but not as ugly things, but as celebrations of life and death. My friends have accepted this “weirdness,” and some have even been just as “weird.” Along with hedgehogs, owls, and crows, I collect skulls and Day of the Dead artifacts. I am especially fond of the Day of the Dead, with the rollicking skeletons and wonderful colors. Vive la morte!ReplyCancel

  • November 14, 2018 - 11:38 am

    Anna Bruce - Haha you’re the best! I really do love your approach to creating. It is so freeing. I don’t have much to say, I am kind of in lala land right now haha. Have a great day!ReplyCancel

  • November 14, 2018 - 11:43 am

    Paulo Carvalho - Fantastic! I loved this video! The image really has your signature. Beautiful! Yes! You must create whatever you want, when you want and what you feel. That’s what defines you, and that’s why I love you! This week I also posted my new work and practically followed this line of creating with what I have at home: A small mask and a chest. If you would like to see, I invite you and all of you to visit my blog:


    Stay well my dear!ReplyCancel

  • November 14, 2018 - 11:46 am

    Ewa - ” Why it has to be so dark?” was one of the most common frases of my mother when she was looking at my (or my brother´s) drawings.
    I never knew. In fact I still don´t know. I find it really hard to explain. Sometimes I think that dark looks more true to me.
    I agree with you, we are too complicated to just say “hey it was after I did or saw something. Then I became dark. ”
    Sadly, I hear statements, that darkness cannot be beautiful. I disagree. Have you ever met this kind of opinion?

    And from the other hand, sometimes props for my pictures are really hard to explain. Why do I pick up leaves from the street? Why do I carry bones in my backpack? Or how to explain to your husband that you would like to have a medieval sword?
    Wish you all the best & thank you for being here and inspiring me! It is really a great feeling knowing that there are people like you in the world:)ReplyCancel

  • November 14, 2018 - 9:25 pm

    Gallagher Green - I love this photo, I think it is going to be my new laptop background. 😉
    The wet sheet has inspired me to try something involving a wet sheet, but I need to wait for the next cold weather front.
    The people at your sculpture class that were there last time are probably excited to see what you make this round! Has anyone else in the class tried something different after seeing your work?
    I know what you mean about having darkness in artwork that we don’t have in our personalities. I am writing another for story, and this one is an apocalypse story. I have surprised myself with how dark it is. I don’t outline, I just write, and last night as I typed it out I had trouble believing this was me telling the story….. I have never had that feeling before, not to that extent.
    I hate scary and/or violent/gory movies, I won’t even watch them. So when I found myself typing something I would never read or watch on TV, I was surprised to say the least.

    That was horrible of your cousin to do you poor thing. ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2018 - 4:56 pm

    Kenneth Vogelsberg - This image really hit me as I suffer with copd! So many nights I awake suffocating! great work!ReplyCancel