I was reflecting this week about pivotal points in my life, and each memory brought me back to the same four words: You Can’t Do That.

Those words have been spoken or written to me so many times, it must be fun for people to say.

When I made creepy films about death I was told I shouldn’t; when I made creepy photographs about death, I was told I can’t. But every time I did something that was weird and unfavorable, it brought me to a place of lush goodness. There must be a correlation between them.

Subconsciously, I began to associate things I shouldn’t do with happiness, prosperity. I started to believe that the more I did thing that upset some people, the opposite would also happen. Polarizing art means that people hate it and love it. And it is that love that drives my passion.

What an incredible tragedy that we are taught not to do certain things. Not to pursue certain careers, or make certain types of art. Not to waver from what we know, not to challenge who we could be.

We place too much confidence in other people – their opinions, their beliefs, their experiences – and not enough on our own. On what could be. On what we might make happen.

This week I’m taking that back. I’m claiming my passion for my own and my path for myself. I’m walking toward my passion with the confidence that if I can build it, I can live in it. If I can imagine it, I can make it.

My words for this topic are short because they are direct, sincere, and final. It’s simply time we took back what we rightfully own: our dreams.

Share two things with us:
1) What have you done despite being told not to?
2) Do you think you could be more bold in your life?

  • May 28, 2018 - 1:16 pm

    Geetha Slock - Hi Brooke,

    Short or not, this blogpost came at the rifht time for me. I’ve recently been finding myself caught up in other peoples advice and doubting myself because of it and realising that I should have more confidence in myself and my work. Though for now it’s mostly people telling me what I should do instead and they mean well, but I sometimes feel like it’s just not my way of doing things, my path to walk on. For example, some people tell me to pursue wedding photography because I’ll earn more money, or that I should not use my name when it comes to my self-portraiture because when looking at say my instagram name people won’t know what kind of work I create. They might think I’m a ‘normal’ photographer… So I think it’s time for me to become more bold, believe in my work and I might make mistakes, they might be right, but if that’s the case then that’s for me to figure out.
    Thank you for these words Brooke 🙂ReplyCancel

  • May 28, 2018 - 2:30 pm

    Julie - I’ve had a camera in tow as long as I can remember. When I decided to go to school for photography two significant things happened: One, I was interviewed by a well known Encino photographer who loved my work but told me that I was “too artsy”, but he could train me to shoot as he did. Two, my father told me I didn’t have thick enough skin to not fall apart if criticised, and it just wouldn’t pay the bills. As a result, two things happened: One, I promised myself that I would never shoot for someone else but always stay true to my authentic voice. Two, I decided to become an elementary school teacher and continue photography on the side. I don’t regret staying true to my voice, but I do regret not pursuing my photography dreams when I was younger, I was on a path to Art Center School of Design in Pasadena. I’ve since learned that the word ‘can’t’ can play a powerful role in one’s life. Today I say I can. I can pursue dreams even at my age, I can stay true to my artistic voice, and I can and will continue to work outside of the lines. Yes, I can be bolder, and every day I take the necessary steps to live boldly and creatively. Brooke, as for your postscript: 1. Miss Ives from Penny Dreadful (I know it’s not a book, but I love her character); 2. Ophelia for sure; 3. Snape from HP, he is so complex, and I’d love to know more about him; 4. Dracula by Bram Stoker; and 5 Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Again, thank you for putting out your messages. I often find myself revisiting your vlogs or youtube videos for a word of inspiration. Sometimes I wish I could search, ‘people like Brooke Shaden’ although I know there’s only one like you. Please don’t stop inspiring.ReplyCancel

  • May 29, 2018 - 5:39 am

    Robert Barford - Your post was extreme powerful and touched person chord within myself. I have been told many times that I can’t do something at times because it would not generate enough money. ‘Living’ in a corporate world for may years, I as well as others have been told that we can’t do “___” because of who someone was or how it would look. Yes, I do believe that I should and could become more bold, but also realize that I need to make that step, no one can do it for me.ReplyCancel

  • May 30, 2018 - 3:02 pm

    Gallagher Green - My internet has been out, so I am just catching up on everything.
    Were you by chance listing to A Fine Frenzy, “Riversong” when you took this photo? 😉 Maybe it is because that is one of my all-time favorite songs, but this photo is just stunning, I truly love it! <3

    This is a painting I did a while back, (my first painting) I finished by watering down black paint and painting it across the top. Everyone said "Why would you do that? You are ruining it." But to me, it is what made it. I didn't care what they said, I knew what it needed! https://www.facebook.com/GsCreativeArts/photos/a.1439796569468241.1073741828.1439394839508414/1664999956947900/?type=3&theater

    "DO YOU THINK YOU COULD BE MORE BOLD IN YOUR LIFE?" Yes! I am not very bold, I have a real problem with that. But I'm not really sure how to fix it. 🙁ReplyCancel

  • May 31, 2018 - 8:27 am

    Ted Sandilands - What I have done despite being told not to:
    At this stage of my life usually the one telling me not to do something is that old guy that hangs around in the mirror above my bathroom sink. Let’s just call him OG for short. OG is the one person in my life who has taken on the role to instill fear, uncertainty and doubt in my mind. He is very good using fear to control me and I listen far too often. What is odd about OG is that if I ignore his wishes and go ahead with my own foolhardy plan, he forgets he told me not to in the first place. He doesn’t reprimand me, he just moves on to the next, “Thou shalt not.”

    Could I be more bold:
    Of course. I think I am already very bold but exploration and learning is ongoing and just when I think I am out on the limb as far as possible, I find there is at least one more step I can take.

    I have one advantage over many of Brooke’s followers. I will turn 68 years old next week. Some time ago a little self analysis revealed this hidden gem. One gains wisdom in exchange for youth. While I might desire to regain my youth, particularly the large chunks of it I wasted, I am thankful for the wisdom I have gained. So it is like any business deal or trade or barter. And you know what, exchanging youth for wisdom I think is pretty fair deal.ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2018 - 4:39 am

    Inge Snijders - I’m from a medical family, father, grand father and great grand father, brother and sister, are all doctors. In this family it is ‘normal’ to become a doctor. It is not normal to choose a different path. I studied medicine for 5 years, but i wasn’t happy at all. I wanted to talk to the people, listening to there stories. I didn’t want to be the one in the white coat, 10 minutes in the room, their physical problems, and then the next was in line. The medical world in my county was changing. Time management, money, costs…what i saw…was not in the best interest for the patients at all. It made me sad. During my shifts i often just sat by the bed of the patients, listening to their stories, while most of my colleagues where having their breaks. They told me not to. ‘Not to be so personal with them.’ Then i made the choice to follow the film academy. It wasn’t easy to tell my family. Sometimes now, often at silly times, when money runs out fast, or when i’m at a party and they ask me what i do for a living…. at these moments i feel a little lost. Did i do the right thing?
    But when i make an interview with someone, make a documentary or a portrait. I feel so blessed when i see them changing in front of my camera. Opening up and these beautiful stories are being told and shared. Then i don’t ‘know’ but i can ‘feel’ it, i made the right choice.
    Thank you Brooke, for who you are! You’re a great inspiration!!ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2018 - 12:32 pm

    Robin - I’ve done a lot of things I was told “Not to Do.” I fell in love with Arizona and quit my corporate job in Virginia to make the move. I didn’t have a job to go to there, but did within a month of moving. I was told I couldn’t take a year after I retired and move temporarily to NYC because the city was too dangerous and it cost to much. I’m now in my tenth year there, with my primary home still in Arizona. I could go on and on. I used to be bold, but as I’ve aged I feel as if I’ve lost that. I want it back. I think what would be bold for me right now is self portraiture. Not selfies, but portraits that will reflect my aging process as I move into my late 60’s and early 70’s. (I still feel so young in my heart!) I don’t know anything about photography software other than Lightroom. So I’m not ready to delve into all the ways to manipulate a photograph, so I’m wondering if you can share some next steps in just basic self portraiture for those of us that can’t invest the time (or perhaps money) to learn that piece of it at the beginning. Would love to hear your thoughts. I just recently found your sight and you’ve already given me more inspiration than I’ve had in a long long time. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • June 4, 2018 - 6:16 am

    Jon Miller - 1) WHAT HAVE YOU DONE DESPITE BEING TOLD NOT TO?
    I left medical research in Colorado to become a photographer. I moved to Hollywood and did freelance photography for 20 years shooting celebrities, magazine editorials and PR campaigns and some advertising (catalogs) work, also became photo editor for 2 magazines and eventually left Hollywood to move to Australia where I am strictly doing photo art and yes, I’m enjoying my life.
    2) DO YOU THINK YOU COULD BE MORE BOLD IN YOUR LIFE?
    Could always be more bold and I probably need to do just that, I need to finish a book and get it out there no matter what and then I can concentrate on the other 3 books I have to do.ReplyCancel

For whatever reason, I have always been hesitant to talk about pain. I live in pain, but I’m not bothered by that and I never felt the need to bother anyone else with it, either. I’ve always been of the mindset that if I take care of myself, and I see the best parts of life, then I can manage day to day. This method is working splendidly for me.

I have Fibromyalgia, which is categorized as wide spread pain. Not very specific. For me, it manifests in joint pain akin to arthritis, chronic fatigue, and extreme body sensitivity. This means hugs hurt me (sadly). It means that I feel a lot more pain when I am touched than the average person would.

That’s just an overview, not a pity party. I don’t mind having Fibromyalgia too much. Some days it’s tougher than others, but I have a really annoyingly positive attitude about it and I don’t dwell on it. I have it easier than a lot of people.

My friends are often annoyed with me because I won’t talk about it or say when I’m not feeling well. How I’ve personally lived my life is to keep my pains to myself and deal with it by myself. I’m not saying this method is healthy; it is just what I’ve done.

So, talking about it openly doesn’t feel great. But, I had a few emails from people recently asking if I would talk about it, so I have. And, I created two images that represent how pain feels to me.

Here is how I deal with my pain and continue to be regularly productive:

1. I always get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. I don’t have kids so that’s point one. But nonetheless, I prioritize sleep like no one’s business. I usually go to sleep between 9-10pm, and wake up between 5-6am.

2. I eat a whole foods, plant based diet largely without sugar. That works well for me personally: I am not attempting to give nutrition advise.
(Speaking of…I’m about to go slice a fresh loaf of this bread that I’ll smear with avocado. My favorite breakfast!)

3. I see beauty in pain. I really do. It inspires me and I create from it often. I let my poses, my emotions be dictated by what pain feels like to me.

4. I carry light-weight equipment. This has made a HUGE impact in my life. My gear that helps me travel light is: Sony a7rii (mirrorless, full frame camera), 3 Legged Thing tripod (carbon fiber, folds really small), and a Microsoft Surface Pro (laptop under 3lbs!). I use roller bags where possible because I also have nerve damage in my back.

5. I have a gratitude practice.

6. I build downtime into my day. I know that I have energy and feel best in the mornings. I do not, unless it is absolutely necessary, work past 7pm. I let myself relax from that time until I go to sleep.

7. I exercise, lightly. I do yoga everyday and hike 2-3 times a week.

8. A common effect of Fibromyalgia is bad memory. I have it in abundance. I keep to do lists and charts to keep myself organized. This helps to get me excited about finishing a goal as well as keeps my brain straight!

I know that there are people living in pain far, far worse than mine. And there are people who have never lived in pain. No matter your experience, I hope this sheds some insight into working through adversity.

At the end of the day, I have a passion that cannot be silenced. I try not to let time get in the way of pursuing that dream. What I mean by that is this: It might take me longer than I think it should to get some tasks finished. I might need to rest and take care of my body before I can move on and conquer. I’m learning to be okay with that. Passion and dreams do not have an expiration date. Take your abilities one step at a time.

I created these two images based on how I feel in pain.

One, a ripping apart of the body, an explosion within.

The other, a sinking, suffocating feeling as time passes you by.

Maybe one of these images resonate with you. Maybe you know the feeling.

Let me know below.
I’d love to open the conversation so that we all feel that we can share our pain.

  • May 21, 2018 - 7:12 am

    Els Aartse - Dear Brooke, We posted our image at the same time so I noticed just a moment ago. That’s why I have read about you story of having to deal with your pain and to see your two beautiful images about how you experience that. I made my second image today of a knew series about the pain that comes from being in a narcissistic relationship. The pain for me is now gone but the wounds are still there. And therefor I make art and tell my story so I hopefully can make others see that because of your own pain you can learn from it and help and inspire others. Like you have so much inspired me dear brooke. Because you have helped me to make honest and vulnerable art. And I want to say thank you. Big hugs. I think one day we meet. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • May 21, 2018 - 7:17 am

    Jon Miller - Hi Brooke, I can relate regarding pain, 18 months ago I had an injury where I smashed both my feet and as a result I’ve had surgery 11 months later and live in constant pain from the nerve damage and a damaged vein vale (vein re-flux) which for some reason the surgeon wont fix as of today. I have since developed CRSP (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) my right foot which was damaged more is in a constant state of pain due to the swelling from the vein re-flux, nerves are constantly shooting in the foot, the toes and heel have no feeling. They have me on heavy drugs but they are doing nothing I get about 2-4 hours sleep if I’m lucky some nights I do not sleep at all. So to take my mind off of this I create images and send them to art shows and I struggle through shoots by sitting during the entire shoot, yes I’ve had to move my studio in my home. So instead of concentrating on the constant pain I try to block it from taking up a lot of my time by creating art.
    the images are on my website in the fine art area.ReplyCancel

    • May 21, 2018 - 9:05 am

      Gallagher Green - Do you have a link to your website? I would love to see your work.
      I love the way you are dealing with your pain by doing what you love, wonderful! <3ReplyCancel

      • May 21, 2018 - 6:41 pm

        Jon Miller - Gallagher Green – Some of the images are NSFW so please be aware if viewing from work.
        http://www.jLorenzo.com.au
        Go to Galleries click on either Fine art or Fine Art Nudes.ReplyCancel

        • May 21, 2018 - 7:34 pm

          Gallagher Green - Wonderful work Jon, I really love it! <3ReplyCancel

  • May 21, 2018 - 7:23 am

    paulla kosta - Hi Brooke,
    Living with bipolar disorder from the age of 25 and hip dysplasia since I was born, I can totally resonate with you, your work. I go through pain a lot of times. I see beauty in pain too, can’t always explain why but I do. And try to express it in my work which is in a facebook blog: Autolove_Project. I received a very warming comment from you which I’ll never forget. Keep creating and inspiring.
    Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Hug (very gentle one)

    PS: don’t know how to post a photo here so here’s the link
    https://www.facebook.com/201054117017129/photos/a.201073453681862.1073741827.201054117017129/441867876269084/?type=3&theaterReplyCancel

  • May 21, 2018 - 7:47 am

    Cindy V - I have a dear friend who has fibromyalgia, so I know what she deals with. I will try to be a little more gentle with my hugs but I know how much you love them so I will keep giving them. I hope they find a cure soon for this disease.
    Regarding Utah, OMG it is one of my all time favorite places. I have been to all those places. I tell people to just skip the Grand Canyon and go to Bryce. I love it and Zion, but the first time I visited Arches NP it actually brought tears to my eyes. I can think of no other landscape that is more magical that those found in Southern Utah. Perhaps a future location for PPC?ReplyCancel

  • May 21, 2018 - 7:59 am

    Kristy Slicker - I can relate. I have suffered from fibro, scoliosis, and anxiety/panic for years. There are those who call me a “shut in” and give me a hard time because I do not venture out and associate like everyone else and there are those who understand. I love that you kind of accept and work with your condition, I guess maybe instead of fighting things like I always do, I should maybe relax and try to work with it as well – see what comes out of it.ReplyCancel

  • May 21, 2018 - 8:33 am

    Lisa Blevins - I have been bed ridden nearly two yrs with pain .
    I have Lupus, Fibromyalgia , CRPS, and nerve damage
    in my hip and back . I just currently had a face biopsy because lupus is
    Currently attacking my salvia glands .
    My pain is so much there’s hardly a day that goes by
    I don’t cry due to the amount of pain I’m in .

    I want to say thank you so so much for sharing your story about your pain .
    You have inspired me and truly made me think about
    pushing through the pain and creating my own feelings through my art .

    The image of you covered by the clock is so true to how I feel and I’m sure many others who struggle daily .
    I’ve often shared my pain as if I were in a pool, my face just barely above water , while violently moving my arms to stay a float .

    I never dreamed pain would be such a huge part of my life .
    Bless You Brooke for touching my heart this morning and
    Giving me a wake up call . A call in which to use my pain and express it
    In my work . And never give up doing something I love so much .

    I have no doubt it was a God thing for me to come across your email
    this morning when I needed it most .

    Wow , you truly do have a beautiful
    Testimony that will be touching peoples lives . I hope you continue
    To talk about pain and create more images that show the anguish we suffer daily .ReplyCancel

    • May 21, 2018 - 9:12 am

      Gallagher Green - (Hug) <3ReplyCancel

    • May 21, 2018 - 6:28 pm

      Jon Miller - Lisa, I can relate with the daily intense pain that makes you cry, at 63 I thought it was impossible to make me cry, unfortunately I was fooled. With this nerve damaged foot flares up its like the foot is being shot at multiple times in a 30-45 second period, the pain is so intense it brings me to my knees in tears. The drugs I’m on does nothing for it so I know each night I have to go through this. I don’t sleep because of it and that starts taking affect on the mental state. I’m lucky in that all of this is covered by insurance 100% including psych counseling, but it means nothing when the pain starts up.
      All I can say is hang in there. They tell me I have 2-4 years to deal with this for complete recovery, at this time that seems like an eternity.ReplyCancel

  • May 21, 2018 - 9:02 am

    MUKESH SINGH CHARAN - Your page so beautiful and my page is Awesome follow is my page @kr._mukesh_singh_charanReplyCancel

  • May 21, 2018 - 9:39 am

    Gallagher Green - I knew you suffered from fibromyalgia, but I didn’t know you had it at such a young age. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been.
    I don’t suffer from any ailments, but the second photo “a sinking, suffocating feeling as time passes you by.” this I really related to. There isn’t a day that goes by, where I don’t think that I’m not where I want to be, that I am stuck. But I have started I group on FB for posting what you are grateful for, and that has really helped.
    But just a few days ago I created a photo that fits this exactly, it is the idea that the demons inside us are our worst enemies. https://www.facebook.com/GsCreativeArts/photos/a.1439796569468241.1073741828.1439394839508414/1655559897891906/?type=3&theater
    Thia was a wonderful and personal post that I am sure was hard for you, thank you so much for sharing though. (Soft Hug)
    P.S.
    Maybe you already do, but you should eat lots of Turmeric. It helps muscle pain, joint pain, and memory. Plus a ton of other things! I think it could reincarnate the dead! LOLReplyCancel

  • May 21, 2018 - 10:05 am

    Jill Terry - I am another who has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, ME and CFS. I count myself lucky though as I didn’t start getting pain until I was 46 (62 now). While living in the UK I was just about housebound. Last year hubby and I moved to Fuerteventura and it has helped a bit in that I can now get out and about, albeit I still can’t walk very far. I definitely know what you mean about hugs! And have you noticed that men ALWAYS pat you on your shoulders, which sends a burning arrow of pain through you!!

    My creativity seems to come and go in bouts. I’m currently in a bout where I am not creating at all. My brain just can’t seem to get going and lack of confidence doesn’t help LOL! I am new to art and do struggle. Keep telling myself to do a bit each day!!!

    I have thought about using my pain in creating, but not yet tried it.

    You are an inspiration to us all Brooke. Thank you!!ReplyCancel

  • May 21, 2018 - 10:25 am

    Marianne Goodell - Hi. First off, a compliment on how you share so much of yourself, your craft, your skills, and your heart; I love that. Thank you. I’m learning so much from you.

    Secondly, I live in Utah and want to say your itinerary is great. If you end up near Salt Lake, hit any of the trails going up the canyons towards our ski resorts or head on up to the Uintah Mountains. It will be a completely different experience than what you’ll be seeing at all of the parks you’re visiting.

    I hope you have a fabulous trip and if you want company on a shoot or a hike if you’re near SLC, let me know. I’d love to play.

    Love,
    MarianneReplyCancel

  • May 21, 2018 - 10:41 am

    Claudia - Dear Brooke,
    Your story is really inspiring , as are your classes and photographs .. I think we all go through some kind of pain , be it physical or emotional.. . I am learning through my art to connect with it rather than avoid it, thus I used to do that. I am full of self doubt sometimes and feel as I could never be able to photograph as artistically as I wish..
    Therefore I lack the discipline to go out everyday and make some images.
    I m almost 60 and my energy is not up to the task sometimes. Some days, I just want to give up.. learning this about you is giving me strength to keep going and follow my passion and dream. I send you a painless virtual hug and thank you for your wonderful help , honesty and advice.ReplyCancel

  • May 21, 2018 - 11:22 am

    Jane Tikkkuri - Dear Brooke,
    Thank you for telling your story about Fibromyalgia.
    I also have it along with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, and Osteoarthritis in my back and left knee. I also suffer with Anxiety from dealing with having multiple pain diseases. I really needed to hear your story after vending at a art show yesterday and the rain poured for three hours, it was windy and cold also. I sat there with my whole body aching wondering how I was going to get thru the next four hours. My hands were in pain from carrying and setting up my booth. My knee and back were throbbing in pain and my stomach in knots. Feeling scared and lost thinking is this it for me? Im I done pursuing my dream?
    These are all the things I feel whenever I purse my passion. The frustration from dealing with all the pain that goes along with having chronic pain diseases. The road blocks that are put in front of me because of what I deal with on a daily bases. I will go out for a shoot and I feel my passion burning inside of me and when it is done the awful pain comes on full force. Sometimes the passion can not over rule the pain and I feel it while I’m shooting.
    I know that there is a fire inside of me a little ember that sometimes wants to burn out and not come back. We all have that fire inside of us, its our choice to ignite it or let it burn out. I am to scared to let it burn out all the way because I fear it will be out for good. I can’t take that chance so when it turns into a ember (like at the art show) I look for inspiration from my peers and friends and I get that ember burning again!
    Thank You Brooke, for sharing a part of you that is very hard to share!ReplyCancel

  • May 21, 2018 - 12:23 pm

    Anna - Hi Brooke, thank you for sharing your story. I resonate with the first image because it also feel like a creative burst and ties in really well with your statement, “I see beauty in pain. I really do. It inspires me and I create from it often.” Keep being you. We all need a place to create from and most of us create from some sort of pain (mine is from a place of fear and personal feelings about myself). Thank you for being an inspiration <3ReplyCancel

  • May 22, 2018 - 7:51 am

    Sara Helwe - Hey Brooke, I remember very well, a few years ago, when I was worried about you and asked about your health condition.So sorry to know you have to go through all that.
    I was diagnosed with Lupus two years ago after losing my baby when I was six months pregnant. We both have pretty much the same symptoms.
    I urge you to see a good doctor because there’s constant research about chronic diseases and I’m sure there’s medication to ease your pain. I’m feeling so much better in medication, but I prefer working from home because I’m an introvert too. Being an artist is a blessing to people like us!

    I love every signle piece that you do. You’re my artist idol. May God bless and protect you <3ReplyCancel

  • May 23, 2018 - 12:56 pm

    Erika - Thank you Brooke. Not so much time ago i has been diagnosed with Tinnitus (constant ringing in the ears), before that i was so passionate about photography, and now i just sit and cry. But your message gave me hope, maybe i will be able to create again through that psychological pain. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • May 24, 2018 - 12:03 am

    Vernon - Brooke, thank you for sharing this blog post. I never knew that you suffered so. It makes me think back to you workshop you gave in a college in London a few years back where you hugged everyone attending. Each hug gave you pain but you did it anyway with a smile and some kind words for us all. Thank youReplyCancel

  • May 24, 2018 - 6:59 pm

    Elijah Goodwin - Thanks Brooke! I’ve admired your imagery, your enthusiasm, your ability to teach, and your sci-fi/creative nerdiness (that’s a good thing) since I first saw you present on CreativeLIVE. I really appreciate you sharing this post and video. As a sufferer of chronic Lyme or post-Lyme syndrome (whatever you want to call it), I can identify with both your symptoms and the skepticism that can come from others and even unfortunately some members of the medical community. I was in the best shape of my life (and training for a 10K) when I came down with Lyme disease. The symptoms were sudden, dramatic, and scary. It started with double vision and tinnitus in the middle of teaching. By the next day I had numbness and tingling in all my limbs. I ended up in the ER several times because I kept passing out. It took seven weeks and seven doctors to get a definitive diagnosis and a doctor that was willing to treat aggressively. I’m grateful for the improvements that I’ve made since then, but I still have extreme fatigue, sleep disturbance, muscle fatigue, cognitive issues, periodic joint issues, trouble swallowing, sensitivity to vibration, cluster headaches, and periods of intense, deep, nonspecific pain (particularly when I overdo). I will talk to people about it when asked, but generally avoid talking about it or gloss over how I’m feeling. There are many days when I’m so fatigued it takes a conscious force of will to do every single little action I do throughout my day. My condition makes it nearly impossible to do any regular activity that can’t involve a flexible schedule at both micro and macro scales. I say all this, because I thank you for opening up about your pain, how it interacts with your art, and using your public persona to help others express their pain. And I hope others may identify with my story and feel inspired to share their pain, which too often goes unvoiced. I find that may pain inspires some of my more personal work. But more importantly my creative work is a salve for my pain and gives me the inspiration to keep pushing forward. Anyway, thanks for your continual inspiration and sharing.ReplyCancel

  • May 31, 2018 - 11:14 pm

    Jak - Hi Brooke

    I’ve been following your superb YouTube channel for a while now. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and insights – you are such an inspiration to me.

    I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Mast Cell Disease and M.E./CFS. I took up photography 5 years ago and like you do lots of selfies in my spare bedroom as and when my health allows and composite them into backgrounds https://bamimages.wordpress.com/2017/11/26/selfies/#jp-carousel-353

    I watched your Impostor syndrome video today which rang so many bells! My Dad constantly criticized me and even though I’m now 50 this has left me with feelings of never being good enough which I still fight. I do what I love and if others love it to that’s a bonus, and if not *I* still love it and that’s all that matters 🙂

    Your videos have helped me to become a better photographer – thank you for being you and daring to be different!

    Jak xReplyCancel

I get asked all the time why in the world I take self-portraits. Usually it is a simple curiosity. Especially from fellow photographers who can’t imagine being in front of the camera, this is a strange thing to do. It is vulnerable, reflective, and telling.

But it is also a way to take control over all parts of your craft – to focus on the self is to be bold, brave, and mindful. Or at least, it can be.

Often the fear of self-portraiture goes back to body image. And, the assumption about self-portrait artists is that they love the way their body looks, so they photograph it. I can only speak for myself and what I know of other artists, and that isn’t always true.

I create self-portraits to see myself as a character, to be in total control, to not be accountable to anyone but myself, and to embolden and empower myself. To find acceptance.

One of my favorite self-portrait artists is Samantha Geballe. You’ll see why immediately. She is vulnerable, direct, bold, and innovative in all that she does and says with her lens.

Image by Samantha Geballe https://www.samanthageballe.com/

She is also the perfect example of someone who takes the conversation in the direction she wants. She is an artist who drives conversations, not one that takes a backseat.

Self-portrait artists can be harshly judged. I’ve received emails saying that I shouldn’t create self-portraits because I’m not good looking enough. It happens. (Don’t worry about me, I’m a very tough cookie.)

But I think that a really smart artist drives the conversation. If you create a self-portrait and want to talk about body image (like Sam does in a lot of her work), then do that intentionally. Be the one that moves the talk in a way that feels productive to you. That doesn’t mean criticism won’t come in, or that you won’t hear hurtful comments, but you are more likely to command respect and positive attention in this way.

For example, I am very mindful of how I write online about my work. If I feel the focus should be on the theme, I write about the theme. If I feel it should be on the story of the image, I write about that.

This directs the conversation away from a place I don’t feel it should go.

Images from 2009.

I remember in my very early work I created an image where I highlighted and accentuated my rib bones. I released that image and received a backlash of comments calling me anorexic (which is a horrible accusation to throw around) and, essentially, body shaming.

The next time I posted an image like that, I didn’t get mad about those names I was being called. Instead, I directed the conversation. I drew attention to the fact that I was accentuated my bones for the story of the image. The entire conversation changed, and it became about why that choice was made.

In self-portraiture, we have the ability to direct the conversation just like any other time we release our art into the world. You might argue that we shouldn’t have to do that. That people should just be nice. That we shouldn’t have to deal with judgment. But, that simply isn’t the world we live in. And if I am given a chance to be in control, I am going to take it.

Throughout my 9 years as a self-portrait artist, I have learned more about myself than I ever thought possible.

I’ve learned how to see myself as the main character of my life, not just my images. I’ve learned how to love my body through bad camera angles. I’ve learned to not touch the liquify tool in Photoshop, to not change my body, to let it be as it is. I’ve learned photography through self-portraiture, learned composition intimately, learned how to express emotion through non-verbal communication, and more.

I highly encourage you to create a self-portrait. It might be just what you need and you didn’t even realize it. Or, maybe it’s old hat and you’re in the market to try something new with it. Either way…

This week, create a self-portrait.
Share a link to it in the comments below.

What are your fears about self-portraiture?
What has your experience been?

  • May 14, 2018 - 7:36 am

    Sara Harley - I became a follower of your work in the Spring of 2017. In June, my husband suffered a major stroke and was hospitalized for months. I wasn’t able to go out with my camera but, using your self portraits as my inspiration, I created a series of self portraits that I called “Stroke of Emotions”. The work was featured in a photography gallery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in February and recently featured online by PhotoEd Magazine. (the article even credits Brooke as my inspiration) Here is a link: http://www.photoed.ca/single-post/2018/04/22/Sara-Harley-Stroke-of-EmotionsReplyCancel

    • May 14, 2018 - 7:43 am

      brookeshaden - Sara, I am so glad that you shared. Thank you for putting the link here. I was really moved looking at your images (about to go read the full article). It is obvious they contain depths and that is so beautiful to see come out of a dark time. I’m sending you a heartfelt hug and wish that things in your world are looking brighter.ReplyCancel

    • May 14, 2018 - 12:35 pm

      Gallagher Green - What a wonderful set of photos Sara, great work! <3ReplyCancel

  • May 14, 2018 - 8:41 am

    Kristey Fritz-Martin - I love this post so very much! You gave been such an incredible inspiration on my journey and I just adore your beautiful soul and work. I finished this image up this morning and thought it was so random that your inspirational challenge today was about creating a self portrait and stepping outside your comfort zone that I thought I would put it into a little blog post and share it. I am so proud of myself for actually making it work and stepping outside my comfort zone with compositing. Thank you so very much for being you! http://www.myartisticjourney.net/the-journey/brookeshadenmondaychallengeReplyCancel

    • May 14, 2018 - 8:43 am

      brookeshaden - Absolutely FANTASTIC. Talk about doing something out of the box…or, in the onion, in this case 😀ReplyCancel

      • May 14, 2018 - 9:10 am

        Kristey Fritz-Martin - Thank you so very very much!! I am starting to think it may look more “cabbage” than “onion” BUT I am still so excited it was created lol. I am definitely going to have to peruse the theme onward. And now I am going to seriously go geek out because my idol has actually seen a piece of my work and called it “fantastic” Bwahahaha. Seriously and truly made my whole year!! Thank you!!! ❤️ReplyCancel

        • May 14, 2018 - 12:39 pm

          Gallagher Green - I love that photo!!! I will read the blog post later. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • May 14, 2018 - 11:03 am

    Geetha Slock - Hi Brooke,

    I completely relate to this. I don’t take selfportraits because I love the way I look. Far from it. But I can be a character in front of the character and I have full control. I’m creating my vision, purely, without taking the opinion of others in account. Through selfportraiture I learn to accept my body, which is a major step because I used to be anorexic and these thoughts still plague me to this day. But I chose to handle them differently. I recently created a miniseries to tell the story of my journey as a lost teenager to being a woman with a passion and love for life. I hope it raises awareness for mental health issues and gives comfort to people that can relate to my story. It was different for me because I took close ups and usually I take selfportraits of my entire body since the pose is a big part of story telling for me. (quantumfluctuations.co/how-i-used-the-fine-art-actions-on-my-images/).

    I love the colors in this image. Looks like a painting!

    Hugs!
    GeethaReplyCancel

  • May 14, 2018 - 1:06 pm

    Gallagher Green - I will be honest here when I started fine art I had a lot of trouble taking self-portraits because I just wasn’t comfortable in front of the camera, because of body image. I don’t like to admit that, but it is true. I have now taken lots of self-portraits, and am starting to get used to it, but it is still hard and I don’t like it.
    I have never Experienced cruel comments like you (sorry you had that happen) because I have very few followers, and I am a man. People are so much harder on women than men on things like this, it is so sexist!
    Anyway, thank you for sharing Samantha Geballe work, it is so powerful and inspiring!
    I will have to think up a new self-portrait challenge for myself, but these are the self-portrait photos I have done. I write a description with everyone, to guide their story, I always hope that isn’t a mistake.
    https://www.facebook.com/pg/GsCreativeArts/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1439796569468241ReplyCancel

  • May 14, 2018 - 5:07 pm

    Jon Miller - Wow a challenge about something I really am very uncomfortable about, self portraits. I hate seeing myself in images and more so, self portraits to be honest, but since you asked, I’m going to work on this today and post later in the week. Because I’m “trapped” at home due to a accident I had last February I have not been able to go walking anywhere as my right foot is in recovery mode and the other will be operated on soon. I’ve had to setup my studio here at home and do my work here, it’s been a good experience. However, for those days when I want to get out and shoot I cannot per doctor’s orders. I thought about shooting myself the other day before your newsletter came in and it’s ironic that you have thrown down a challenge and I accepted. I told my friend Eva about it because besides you she is one of my favorite self portrait artists as well.
    Here goes…..

    JonReplyCancel

  • May 15, 2018 - 6:22 am

    Els Aartse - Dear Brooke,

    After reading your blogpost with this beautiful image I realized now is the time to be really vulnerable and let myself see to others and tell the world about my story. By making my images even more real, just as it feels when I am working on a image. And to be be honest about it. Often I found myself hiding away from what has been so difficult. Not daring to represent what is going on in my head. Still being busy with what others think of my art and self portraits. But now you mention it I am inspired because of your story and I am determined to go further then I have ever been in my work to create. This is all for me and about me but more important I want to inspire other people to go beyond their fears and stand up for themselves. Like I did.
    It took me a while when I finally left the abusive relationship I was in. And it took almost that same time to overcome the trauma. But now I am free and ready to help others by inspire them to also make choices to stap out of what makes them unhappy. I am now 50 years young and my children are all grown up. But I have overcome most of my fears and I am becoming more and more happy because of me making art. It helps me and I can be proud of what I have learned and what I can create because of my art. So it doesn’t matter who you are and what you have been through. It’s about what you can and may do because of that.
    I have learned a lot from you Brooke. And now it’s time for something Els 😉ReplyCancel

  • May 16, 2018 - 3:32 pm

    cindee still - I am a Photography Major at Academy of Art University, San Fransisco (online). My 56th birthday is in two weeks. I have never been comfortable with my looks but it’s who I am. So, this weeks assignment was to do a collage self portrait that emphasizes identity. After being a prison guard for 24 years of my life my image looks like a description giving by a witness of what that crazy lady looks like.
    https://www.kymericalimagery.com/Self/n-8GNg4dReplyCancel

  • May 18, 2018 - 7:03 am

    Anne Parsons - Brooke: I’ve been to your workshops-you are the genesis for my becoming a photographer. My problem with self-portraiture is focus. How do you focus on where your face will be once you pop in front of the camera? On what do you focus while behind the camera?

    thanks
    AnneReplyCancel

    • September 15, 2018 - 3:27 am

      Tonya - I watched a Creative Live class, pretty sure it was Brooke, where she used an old tripod for focusing on, so I’ve taken to doing that and so far it works fairly well. Sometimes I put a hat on top of it just to have something with a little more substance to focus on. And setting shutter to a delay with remote so I stop getting myself pushing the trigger in images! 😀ReplyCancel

I have always been open about my love of education. Growing up I wanted to be an English teacher. I thought my path was set from a very early age. I loved teaching, I loved helping others, it just seemed natural. But then I found creativity and that took over my life in a massive way. So, I started what any normal person would – teaching creativity!

I have been teaching for 8 years now, and I remember my first workshop like it was yesterday.

I used to shoot in this old warehouse. Half of it was still being used for some sort of materials company. I waltzed in one day and asked the owner if I could take pictures in the back of his shop. He said yes, and so a wonderful collaboration was born. I took pictures there countless times, even brought a dance crew there to photograph them…

And then, when I decided to host my first workshop (planning commenced in June 2010) I asked him if I could bring my workshop group there.

This is the first image I ever created in a workshop.

HUGE liabilities aside (it being a decrepit warehouse), he said yes, I announced my workshop, and it remains one of the neatest locations I’ve ever used.

I remember carefully planning out every single minute of the day. I remember feeling extremely confident in my curriculum. I remember freaking the heck out over my organization skills, if anyone would show up, and if they would find it valuable. I charged $200 a person and we did everything from inspiration exercises to shooting to editing.

My workshop structure has changed little since that first one. I spent hours upon hours planning it out and it worked.

I’ve been fortunate enough to teach at major conventions, go around the world with these workshops, and prattle about at Creative Live (it was an honor to teach their first fine art class).

Here is a look at just some of the images I have created during my Creative Live classes, of which I have taught over 60 hours worth.

You have trusted me, given me so much love, too many hugs to begin counting, friendships made, and experiences that have filled my 20s with so much appreciation. I’ve visited 21 countries on hundreds of trips. It has been out of this world.

Why give it up?

The answer isn’t what you may think.

On one hand, it is. I need to stop traveling so much. I need a break. I need to be home. I’m homesick even when I’m home because I know it’s just a week until my next trip.

But on the other hand, it is something very different that took a lot of growing up to realize.

When you teach your craft, you learn your craft intimately. It was the best decision I could have made to really, truly understand what I’m doing, and why. Nothing else compares, not hours of shooting or editing. It’s repeating that information in a digestible way that allowed me to understand my craft as well as I do. And how well I understand my craft, which I daresay is extremely well, is why I’m leaving teaching behind for now.

I’m in a new period of creative exploration. The baby stages. I don’t know what I’m doing yet. I explore it every single day. I’m not ready to teach it because I’m just getting to know it.

It’s like we’re getting tea for the first time, awkwardly not knowing if we should shake hands or hug, and we’re making small talk.

Some big conversations are coming on soon.

After that, I’ll be ready.

I’ll be ready to teach my new craft. I don’t know if it will be massively different or the same. I anticipate teaching writing workshops as well, something that, in more ways than you’ll understand, fulfills my childhood dreams.

But for now, I wait.

I don’t know if this break from teaching will last 2 months or 2 years. All I can say is that I am grateful beyond belief for your support thus far, for letting me guide you into the deepest realms of creativity, and for standing by me as I pursued this path.

I’ll continue on with my blog posts and videos, of course. But as for in-person education – that will have to wait until I’ve met my creativity, stared it in the face, and learned every wrinkle inside and out.

If you’ve been to a workshop, please comment below and let me know where we met!

(And maybe even your experience!)

If you’ve been to a class of mine, even if it was online, this is what I want you to know about me: I give everything. I am not someone who fears. I am someone who gives because I would rather see people uplifted and empowered rather than held back by knowledge that I could give but do not because I am afraid. I do not say that in vanity, I say it because it is a trait that I hold in high esteem and because I have built my life on that foundation. For my many, many flaws, this is where I hold my head high.

Teaching has taught me the kind of person I want to be. It is not someone who holds secrets close and guarded; it is someone who shares openly, with a heart like a sponge, who listens and aids and feels deeply. Thank you for letting me do this. It is an honor for which I cannot properly express my gratitude.

Want to take a class from me? While I am on hiatus from in-person education, I have classes on Creative Live that are extremely comprehensive and fulfilling:

  • May 11, 2018 - 8:01 am

    Sam Harnois - Brooke.

    It’s funny. I keep relating to you in more ways each time I see you. I actually wanted to be a SPANISH teacher, and similar to you, thought that’s what I was destined to be. Similar to you, I found creativity to be more important. I have been teaching for 3 years now online in an untraditional setting.

    As a teacher myself I have been fascinated by the way you teach. Sometimes I would rewatch your lessons after digesting the material just to look at it from a teachers perspective. My gosh, you are amazing.

    You did teach me to be more open about myself, and REALLY not care about people who don’t like it. I just completed my first mini series about a toxic relationship I was in, and the responses were nothing I would have ever imagined.

    As you know, I finally met you last year at Promoting Passion (even though I have known who YOU were for about 2 years). I remember sending you a message that I was really scared about not knowing anyone my age. And you calmly assured me that age was not a thing at the convention. That whole event was so surreal to me, and I became part of a loving community.

    And then I saw you in Maine, and you taught me how to use chopsticks and rewarded me with a dumpling! xD And we looked for cracks in the wall and crammed into a hotel room. I can’t wait to see you at the next Promoting Passion, and hopefully go on some sort of adventure when I’m out in California! It’s coming soon!!!

    SamReplyCancel

  • May 11, 2018 - 8:13 am

    Amy - That’s great Brooke! Have fun exploring your creativity and I am so excited to see where it takes you. I’m sure it will be somewhere amazing ♥ReplyCancel

  • May 11, 2018 - 8:31 am

    Katrin Auch - While I firmly support your need for a break and self-care, I hope this doesn’t include Promotion Passion. After I saw your first class on Creative Live I knew I wanted to take a workshop with you, and got the opportunity to be one of your Dirty Girls right at the start of the year in 2012 or 13 (I can’t remember). Your approach to teaching and your art style unlocked something deep within me and gave me a new approach and permission to explore things I never would have done before. You have changes lives, I know because you changed mine. I think that taking a break is super healthy and I am glad you are doing it, but I know you will teach again, cause it’s in your soul—and you simply glow when you are in front of a group of people. I am looking forward to your next venture. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • May 11, 2018 - 8:32 am

    Abbe - I missed you at Firefly Camp this year but did watch and purchase your Creative Live class which I watch over and over
    Looking forward to reading your posts and blogs and seeing your new work
    Thanks for your inspiration and sharing your knowledge
    Hope to meet you one day
    Abbe GinisReplyCancel

  • May 11, 2018 - 8:47 am

    Amani - I love how you’re practicing what you preach and continuously growing and looking for more.
    You already know how much you’ve impacted my life with your teaching. Your workshop was the first photography workshop I ever attended, and that day you opened up this whole new world to me that I didn’t know about. You gave me a voice when I thought I didn’t have one. You pretty much saved my life.
    I’m so grateful for you and your teaching in ways I don’t know if I’d ever be able to express.

    I love you <3ReplyCancel

    • May 11, 2018 - 9:00 am

      Paulo Carvalho - Amani, my dear! One day we will also get to know each other! Proud of you! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • May 11, 2018 - 8:56 am

    Paulo Carvalho - The most important thing is that you feel good about yourself. Do not worry about this period of time, be it 2 months or 2 years, the time is yours and we will always be here.
    So take your time, the time you need and explore your creativity without rush.
    And how do we know each other?
    It was not really a workshop, but a lecture in London. How anxious I was! It was, is and always will be a moment to remember with joy. A moment that holds in the heart forever. At this moment I look with emotion at the text you wrote me.
    Miss you! 😛 xxReplyCancel

  • May 11, 2018 - 8:56 am

    Amber Turley - Wow! Although I completely get it and applaud you for persuing your own personal growth and talent I’m selfishly bummed. I wanted so badly to go to PPC this year and just couldn’t financially swing it. I would’ve loved to have met you in person to thank you for all your inspiration and selfless hardwork you give to the world. I taken many of your classes, challenges, and read all your inspirational emails. You’ve help me find the artist I know I want to be. Ive learned so much from you. I never knew a stranger (although you don’t feel like one) could Inspire me so much. Thank you very much. I look forward to seeing you grow and will someday tell you in person thank you. Good luck on your new adventures!
    Thank You,
    AmberReplyCancel

  • May 11, 2018 - 9:17 am

    Linda Maveri - Well, you’ll still be teaching us because we also teach by example and by modeling. I’ve been a teacher all my adult life, and I understand what teaching takes out of you. It’s a gift to those around you, but often we lose something of ourselves by doing it. It can be all consuming, as good teachers tend to plan to the nth degree, they dream teaching, vacation teaching, etc. It’s not something you can explain easily.

    The brain loves novelty, and learns and remembers best from lessons that are novel. That word describes you perfectly. I’ve watched and purchased all your Creativelive courses. The first time I saw you, I believe you were teaching as a part of a group, so you didn’t teach a whole day (or multiple days). I just sat in awe. I had no idea we could make work like this. But the biggest take away from all the lessons I’ve watched, is that you are who you are. I connected with you on a different level. It went beyond the art. You didn’t dress like other presenters, you didn’t do things like other presenters, you didn’t have equipment like other presenters. You were novel. And my brain loved it.

    I think that you will still be teaching us things, just not in the traditional way. By watching you, reading what you write, etc. we will continue to learn how to be true to our own passion, and not let what we “think we should do” or “continue to do what is expected of us” rule our lives. Stepping outside what others expect of us is very difficult. You are a leader and trail blazer, so you will always be a teacher in my eyes. Thank you for always being YOU.ReplyCancel

  • May 11, 2018 - 9:41 am

    Mary-Claire - We met at After Dark in St. Louis. I was juicing and even took my blender to the hotel with me. When you saw my drink, you laughed and told me that I could make one for you. So I did, and you were worried that it would have too much ginger in it, but I hadn’t put any in. So we “cheers”-ed and had a lovely time. Thanks for all you do!ReplyCancel

  • May 11, 2018 - 10:39 am

    jeanne - I own every creative live class and watch them over and over and over = learning something more each time.
    I wish you incredible success in your new path and I’m thankfull for everything you’ve shared so far.
    Please do something with the chilled snake just as a last horray…..ReplyCancel

  • May 11, 2018 - 11:59 am

    Derick Tortorella - I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to learn from you in both a small workshop setting, as well as through CreativeLive, and, of course, your incomparable Promoting Passion conventions. What immediately impresses about your teaching style is how you weave between technique, motivation, and artistic expression seemingly effortlessly (though, from experience, I know it’s anything but). Also, you do that you do earnestly, and without pretense, and give your students access to your creative soul, which I think many would agree would be terrifying if the roles where reversed. Whatever lies ahead, just know you’ve been a light for many creatives, who will support you wherever your journey takes you.ReplyCancel

  • May 11, 2018 - 3:09 pm

    Gallagher Green - I am truly glad to see you post this. You said 8+ months ago that you wanted to stop because you were so homesick and burned out, but you haven’t seemed to have slowed down at all, and that worries me. It’s just not healthy! So I am very happy to see you post this! 🙂
    I have two of you Creative Live classes (well worth the money) and have taken all three of your Facebook classes, of which I not only learned a ton, but I met all of my dearests (and to be honest, only) friends in the world. Those FB classes changed my life in the most incredibly wonderful way! So, big thanks for that! 🙂

    P.S.
    Will this be the last PPC? I have a friend on the fence, and this would be a game changer.ReplyCancel

  • May 11, 2018 - 3:49 pm

    Arleen - Good on you Brooke. You’re an inspiration to so many. Can’t wait to see what’s up-your-sleeve next! Best wishes all the way from Australia. xReplyCancel

  • May 11, 2018 - 3:50 pm

    Maria - Your classes have left a lasting impression; one that I’ll never be without. Your courses have taught me that it’s okay to make mistakes, that it’s okay to not know everything, and most importantly to do what works for me. You have inspired me on so many levels.

    I’ve taken a few other courses over the years, most never quite hit the mark. Oh sure, I come away with a short cut or new way to do this or that in Photoshop; or learn a new technique to use with my camera. But your Creative Live courses (all but the portrait) have given me an assurance in myself and my art, and the art I have yet to create. Thanks Brooke!!!

    p.s. I love that you do what you know in your heart is right for you… If only I had that some 25 years younger 🙂ReplyCancel

  • May 11, 2018 - 6:17 pm

    Tracy Whiteside - This makes me so sad. I have spent the last few days watching your Creative Live classes and just falling in love with surrealism, and your intelligence, talent, and down to earth teaching style. I especially appreciate how you are not pretentious.

    My very favorite moment was when you explained how you can up with your ideas. It seems so simple yet I have never heard it before. So I have one more series to complete and then I’ll be a bit lost. I guess I will have to get out and actually try it.

    I totally understand why as I am going through something similar myself. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it 😉 Best wishes and hope to see you on the airwaves very soon.ReplyCancel

  • May 11, 2018 - 7:07 pm

    Jon Miller - Hi Brooke,

    While I have to admit this is not good news from a selfish pov, it is good news from another pov. I have all your CL videos and I mean all of them so I can keep watching them until you return. I can relate to where you’re at. I think I took a more drastic approach and moved out of the country to get the break I needed.
    I’ll look forward to your return, in the meantime enjoy your life and your new journey. It’s good that you had this time and gathered a lot of followers who will be there should you need us.
    Ciao Bella for now.ReplyCancel

  • May 12, 2018 - 1:29 pm

    Zylpha - We have never met but I have taken both of your Creative Live classes, which I absolutely love! You’ve helped me to take those initial steps into fine art photography and I can’t thank you enough!!! I look forward to witnessing the next chapter of your creative life and wish you huge success. Sending you positive vibes and happiness 🙂ReplyCancel

  • May 13, 2018 - 8:31 am

    Anca - Dear Brooke, firstly I want to thank you for everything you have been giving and sharing until now. I really admire all your work and how you manage to balance your creative drive with your desire to be part of a loving community. You are a genuine heart. I followed your online classes on Creative live and I still have all your notes and suggestions in my notebooks that have been essential for my understanding of who I am as an artist. Thank you again for everything you are. I wish you the best in the new adventure you are about to enroll and I know even if you will not be coming back to teaching per se you will still be influencing a full generation of artists through your art and your lifestyle. Lots of love.ReplyCancel

  • May 14, 2018 - 6:19 am

    Ted Sandilands - I often think passionate people are like a radio that may have an on/off switch but the volume control is broken. We are on at full blast until we reach a point where we say, “Enough! Stop the racket.” What happens is we find something new to explore, and our passionate hearts jump on it with gusto.

    I’m like that myself at this time. I started to study Russian, part out of a need to exercise my brain in a completely different way – and just say a lot of parts of a lot of other parts felt better studying a language. I truly feel my head heat up when I study. I reconciled my artistic side with my passionate side by defining the study of a new alphabet, new sounds, new structures and new ways of thinking as an art. It is!

    Well the on/off switch thing comes into play again. I find myself nearly consumed with study. I’ll spend 10 or 14 hour sessions immersed in Russian. I have 5 Russian “pen pals”, who now are more like friends than language partners.

    I know at some point, Russian at full blast will make me say, “Enough! Stop the racket!” and I’ll move on to my next obsession errrr, I mean passion.

    I want to mention the Promoting Passion conference. You do teach a great deal and the organization required must be overwhelming. But the conference has turned into something much more than a workshop – more than a teaching experience. For me it has become my self help / 12 step program for those, like me, addicted to passion. I have support from my sponsors at PPC. And I have a sneaky feeling that once the conference begins, and most of the organizational pains are over, you find your own sponsors sitting beside you in the grand circle.

    Sometimes we Passionates need to do something very alien. Share the burden. Trust others with a teeny-tiny bit of our baby. If in fact we are sponsors, we, your fellow passionates, should be prepared and capable to pick up some of the less enjoyable parts of organizing something as large, and wonderful as PPC. This year the Story Sessions segment is a start. Finding and making use of the talents from within our little (well maybe not so little) therapy group may just be the way to make that sticky old volume control work again.

    Love you Brooke. Your light illuminates a very large circle around you. There are many who find comfort in your light.ReplyCancel

  • May 16, 2018 - 11:56 am

    Leonila - How exciting for you with this new endeavor! I’m hoping someday to make one of your conferences on photography. In the meantime I love poetry and would love to see you teach someday on poetry. No matter what you teach you’re an incredible instructor! Would love to see a picture book from you with your lovely portraits.I have been in one of your communities in FB and have enjoyed the creative prompt ideas you give to encourage us in whatever artistic craft we pursue.ReplyCancel

  • May 17, 2018 - 6:15 am

    EwaMK - Hi!

    First of all, thank you for so many really good classes. Almost all I know now, I learned from you.
    Taking a break from time to time is a good habit, and I am sure, that it will be a very interesting and productive time for you.

    I like your thoughts about self-portraits. I have to say that I am thinking about this subject quite often. Why to take pictures of oneself? I have many reasons why to do that. They are completly logic and I know that for now, I have not so many other options if I want to grow as a photographer. But there is always a voice in my head telling me that this is kind of selfish or maybe narcistic. I don´t know if you (or any of other photographers) ever had this kind of thoughts? What do you do with them?

    My selfportrait is called “Trepador azul” it is a spanish name for a Eurasian nuthatch. It is quite tricky title, since my last name can by translated as a name of this bird. In spanish- “The blue climber”. Fallen for now.

    https://www.facebook.com/HerBirdtragedy/photos/a.130620774413332.1073741828.116450615830348/206040323538043/?type=3&theater

    Wish you all the best, sending love & hugs from Spain:)ReplyCancel

Left: Devin Schiro, Right: Brooke Shaden

These days I spend a fair amount of time in my room alone talking to a camera. And…I love it! I really do. Creating video content is so much fun and always a creative challenge for me. Last week I found myself in Los Angeles passing through between jobs, so I visited my friend Devin Schiro.

On a whim while we were out to breakfast, I asked him if he would create a video with me – a creative challenge, I pitched.
One video, one photo. 

He happily agreed, cancelled his appointments for the day, and we got to work.

I met Devin when he attended a workshop of mine 6 years ago. I came to love his style of filmmaking and we have collaborated many times since then, like on this most recent underwater video last year. Not to mention we became lovely friends (as you’ll see quite plainly).

These are the 3 reasons why I think creative challenges are so impactful:

  1. It brings out your YOUiest you. When you are creating against someone, you are forced to think about how you can make the challenge into something that fits your style, and that allows your content to stand out. Immediately when we started our photo challenge, I looked at the fireplace. BINGO. I can fit in that fireplace, and he can’t. That’s what my brain said immediately, because I started to think in terms of who I really am artistically and what gives me an edge.
  2. It lets you learn new skills. All day long Devin taught me so much about video, from the best settings on my camera, good microphones to use, ways to keep the camera still while moving, and lots of editing tips and tricks. It felt so good to be a student! And I like to think I helped him with a few things, too.
  3. It takes the pressure off. You might think it would be the opposite when competing against someone, but for me, it really does take the pressure away. Yes, I wanted to make something nice. But the atmosphere was much more about learning, growing, and spending time creating than anything else. At the end of the day Devin thanked me for making him create for himself. That’s the spirit, truly.

What should have been an hour long project filming this video turned into a 12 hour day. I kid you not. We filmed and created and laughed from 10:30am until 10:30pm.

What you’ll see in this video: me laughing so much that I can’t breathe, Fumi the cat casually sauntering about in at least 5 scenes, a bathtub, frantic running, candles melting on skin, Devin’s incredible historic apartment, and more. Much more.

It’s a long one (13mins) but a really good one. I can’t watch it without bursting out laughing. Especially the bathtub stuff.

Giving yourself a creative challenge – or better yet, teaming up with someone for a challenge – is a beautiful experience. When I first started photography I joined a challenge group on Flickr. That’s how I met one of my closest friends Christine, who I met in person for the first time when she came to my first gallery opening. You just never know.

In case you don’t have someone readily available for these types of creative days, I want to create a safe space to share.

If you’re up for it (and maybe even if you’re not, hint hint) I invite you to participate in the creative challenge that Devin and I did!

Photo Challenge: Create using the color RED.

Film Challenge: Create using the theme FEAR.

Stills from my video challenge.

If you’re looking for a good resource to challenge yourself creatively, my dearest friend Lindsay Adler (with whom I frequently challenge myself creatively) has a book called Creative52. I adore it, and you will too if you’re looking to be challenged.

Please feel welcome to post your images and/or videos in the comments. I’d love to see some inspiration flood in this week and I know others will appreciate seeing what you have to offer as well.

P.S. Devin, thank you for having a very heavy hand in editing my video. I learned so much from you and I know I will continue to learn from your unique way of seeing the world. Thank you for sharing. I hope the whole world gets to see your talent someday.

P.P.S. I’m going on VACATION, y’all! I can’t believe it! I’m going to Hawaii on a trip with my sister for a week. That means there won’t be a new Monday video next week because I’m trying to take a proper holiday. So, I’ll be back the week after with new content and goodies!

Stills from Devin’s video challenge.

  • April 30, 2018 - 8:08 am

    Lillian Merritt - It’s so much fun watching two of my favorite people ever creating something together. I absolutely loved the videos and images.ReplyCancel

  • April 30, 2018 - 8:38 am

    Geetha Slock - Omg, just now I was talking to my boyfriend about how much I’d love to go on a creative trip with someone that loves to be out in nature and loves to create and perhaps we can even collaborate. I would love to do something with photography and illustrations.

    My most recent image (which you can view on my blog) doesn’t have red, but a kind of golden fabric because it’s something I’ve never done before. I will be creating a new series that will have the color red as a thread through it. Super excited about that!

    Hope I can go on that creative trip soon if I find someone 🙂

    Will be watching the vid soon!
    Have fun in Hawaii!ReplyCancel

  • April 30, 2018 - 9:10 am

    Amy - Already finished my shoot! Can’t wait to share! ♥ Thanks for the push 🙂ReplyCancel

  • April 30, 2018 - 9:43 am

    Wendy Baker - I will watch this over and over again. Thank you. I’m so hesitant about collaborating– your video makes me wonder why I have had this fear. Beautiful. And. Fun.ReplyCancel

  • April 30, 2018 - 10:17 am

    Michele - I love it! I’m totally gonna do this challenge!ReplyCancel

  • April 30, 2018 - 12:00 pm

    Amy - Challenge complete! But I can’t figure out how to post an image in the comments 🙁ReplyCancel

  • April 30, 2018 - 12:14 pm

    Gallagher Green - Okay, this has to be your best video EVER!!! I about died laughing, through the whole video. I watched it this morning before work when you first posted it, and it made my whole day better! Thank you for that. 🙂
    I can’t really pick whos photo or video is better, they are both really great, but very different.
    I am thinking of a photo involving “Red” right now. But the video will be harder, I have never done videography like this, all I have shot is farm videos for my brother. I will try though. 🙂

    P.S.
    Props on fitting in the fireplace, the yoga is finally paying off! LOL

    P.P.S.
    Have a great island holiday!ReplyCancel

  • April 30, 2018 - 4:15 pm

    Kai Frawg - This challenge looked so fun! And I love the art you two ended up with! Thanks for sharing this with us!ReplyCancel

  • May 1, 2018 - 6:23 am

    jeanne - I love this idea I’m trying to find someone in my area….. Thanks for yet another inspiration
    have a great time in HawaiiReplyCancel

  • May 3, 2018 - 8:07 pm

    Gallagher Green - Here is my photo based on the theme “Red”. This has turned out to be one of my best photos, so thank you so much, Brooke, for this challenge. I still have to make the video, which will be good for me, because I am dreading it! LOL
    Here is the photo. 🙂
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BiVuQDQHgoq/?taken-by=gs_creative_artsReplyCancel