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!


  • 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.

  • 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…..


  • 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.

  • 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?


    • 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!!!


  • 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,

  • 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! 🙂

    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.


    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. 🙂

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

    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. 🙂

Scroll for information about today’s giveaway, to watch the video, and read my thoughts.

I took a self-portrait class.

Even though I’ve created over 800 self-portraits,
even though I’ve taught self-portrait classes before…

I went. And I was a student.

Going to this class, taught by the gorgeous person Meghan Davidson, opened up two ways of thinking for me.

The first was one that I had to understand before I went. I’m a natural facilitator. I love teaching, love guiding people. When I went to this class – the first workshop I’ve ever properly taken – I had to put that aside. I wasn’t the one leading, and that is a role I’m not comfortable in.

Instead of walking into the classroom with a leader mindset, I embodied a student mindset. I decided to be curious, to keep an open mind, and to create something I never would otherwise. Watch the video to see what I ended up making (and more!):

The other thing I realized was what a gift it was to attend. To listen to another perspective on creating, to have my mindset challenged and pulled at. That is a gift that I’ve never given myself before. It was a beautiful experience.

This post comes in lieu of those two things: being a beginner + giving gifts.

I challenge you to create like you don’t know what you’re doing.

Even if you’re a professional,
even if you have been creating for 20 years,
even if you think you know your style,
even if you know your craft.

Especially if.

Go back to basics. Do something that scares you, that challenges you. Do something simple. Don’t feel the need to PRODUCE.

That is where this image came from. For me, it was a relatively simple image. I shot it close up, which I normally shy away from, and I didn’t rely on heavy-handed editing.

I covered my body in paint, used a little butterfly I’ve had for 6+ years, and I had fun. Simple, I-don’t-have-to-produce-anything-good FUN.

I tried new techniques in Photoshop, I tried new colors, and I didn’t hold myself to what I already know.

I began again, even though I had already begun creating self-portraits 9 years ago.

What would you do differently if you could begin again?

Scroll for GIVEAWAY!

This week I’ve been given many things, some emotional, some good for the soul, and some were just downright awesome products. I came home from a week away to find a new 3 Legged Thing tripod (this one, specifically) waiting for me as well as a new Microsoft Surface Studio home computer. I mean…


So, I’m passing it on. I really, really needed a new computer (mine was mid-combustion) and I was about to spend money on it. Now that I don’t have to, I’m giving away $150. Because I know this: Someone really needs it. 

If you’d like to enter the giveaway, leave me a comment. Tell me either: a bit about yourself or about a friend who you think could use this kind of a gift. 

And if you have the ability, pay it forward today.


  • April 23, 2018 - 7:24 am

    Kino Alyse - Hey, not commenting because I need it: someone else probably needs it way more than I need a lens, and even $150 can buy someone a camera to start growing their own passion!

    Thank you for years of inspiration, Brooke. Five years ago (or so), I was sitting in a cubicle, working my 9-5 job, watching your livestreams on CreativeLive, and taking notes after notes. Now I’m in Italy as a travel photographer. I’m learning and shifting into documentary photography because I want to be able to tell a story, a valuable lesson you brought home.

    Wonderful video as ever. Have a fantastic day! 😀ReplyCancel

    • April 24, 2018 - 3:48 am

      Vicki Kurasz - So awesome! Congrats on living the dream.ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 7:31 am

    Tiffiny Duke - I am definitely not a professional. I seem to be lacking a great deal on creativity which holds me back. I have been taking pictures mostly to capture memories for my three girls and myself. I have began trying to become more creative but often lose confidence in myself. I haven’t found my creative side yet I guess. Your advice is what I have been needing to here. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 7:33 am

    Sarmad Khalid - I’ve been following you since my 17th birthday and now I’m 22. Your work is really beyond our imaginations and sometimes I feel you’re not from us. Mind blowing ideas and superb skills. I think my class mate deserves this gift as she is struggling to pay her high school fee. She is already teaching kids after school just to carry her studies. Plus, she is inspired by you and decided to persuade her studies in art.ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 7:34 am

    Rareș - Hi Brooke!
    My name is Rareș, I’m a bachelor student from Italy. I have been following you for a year now, more or less since I started photography. I have discovered you thanks to Creative Live and I even bought one of your amazing classes. I would like to thank you for all your kindness and all your lessons and inspiration. Recently I have organized my first exhibition, and I am really happy about it. I have worked on my project, #100unknownfaces,for a few months and a week ago I have managed to do this exhibition and even though is not a fine arts exhibition and the style is very different from yours, I truly believe that you, together with other content creators and artists have inspired and helped me in one way or another. I am going to be honest. I could use those money, I could use a new tripod or a website or some other stuff but I am pretty sure there’s somebody else out there who needs it even more than me so I just want to thank you and I hope you find somebody who really needs that kind of money. As always you are such a nice person and I wish you all the best!


    • April 24, 2018 - 3:52 am

      Vicki Kurasz - Congrats on your exhibit!

      If you use Adobe Cloud (photoshop/lightroom with monthly fee) you can have free websites through them. Hope this helps.

  • April 23, 2018 - 7:37 am

    Kristy - Definitely inspiring, your concepts are always so original and beautiful. I think if I were a beginner again, I would focus on that aspect. Creativity, concept, silence.ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 7:49 am

    Chrystal Kelly - Hi Brooke! You are amazingly sweet. You do so much to give back to the community, all that you share of yourself, how hard you work to do it, is simply beautiful. I myself am trying to get a computer saving for a used one to be honest. I need to be able to edit and have been struggling on my 13” laptop lol. And although I could use the help, I know there are so many more people who need it more. I just wanted to say you are appreciated for all that you give! Time, kindness, inspiration and skills you share so willingly, you are appreciated! ‍♀️ Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 7:52 am

    Ann - Found you thru Creative Live. You provided awesome inspiration and knowledge in the Fine Art Photography course. I frequently rewatch parts to help me answer “what did Brooke say about that?”
    As a thought…perhaps that $150 could be used to help restock art supplies at a local school. The kids would love it and many individuals would benefit. 🙂ReplyCancel

    • April 23, 2018 - 11:10 am

      Gallagher Green - My sister is a third-grade teacher, and the last school she taught at never had anything, it is so sad that these kids don’t get what they need. 🙁ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 7:57 am

    Rachel Strickland - If I could begin again, I wouldn’t give two sh*ts about being sexy. 🙂

    Thank you for your excellent work.ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 8:01 am

    Cesar Rojas - Even in a room by myself just me and the camera this is one of the hardest things to do. I have to get rid of “What people may think…” mentality. Thanks for inspiring and showing how easy it is to make art. I appreciate the video and hope you make more like it.ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 8:02 am

    Charlotte - Hello Brooke,
    Thanks for this post again. You never fail to inspire, not just as an artist but as a beautiful human. I’m so glad to accidentally find you a century ago cos you have really inspire me in a lot of ways. I was still a student that time and wanting to have a camera gear so I can also create. I don’t like asking money for my parents since they’ve done so much and my scholar doesn’t cover all the school expenses. So, I decided to find a summer job on our break. My phone wallpaper is you happily holding your camera, this was my reminder. I was able to buy a camera, a second hand one, but I love it. Fast forward to now, I’m still using my camera but the monitor of my eight year old laptop is dead. I borrowed my aunt’s monitor and connected it but there are white lines on the screen so it’s a hassle editing photos. I’m currently looking for a job now since I’m not emotionally healthy on the previous one so I don’t have the money to spend on fixing my laptop or buy a new screen. If I get picked, I’ll use it for that and maybe even buy a second hand lens, if there is still left. I’m sorry, I blab too much. I just adore you so much, Brooke. Thank you for reading. Hope you’re having a wonderful day! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 8:18 am

    Bob Barford - Brooke, I find your work very inspiring and have even experimented with some of your compositing techniques in my own work with much success. I certainly am a fan of yours on CreativeLive!
    If I were to begin again, I would certainly have pursued my photography much earlier than I did. I have worked many years in a high stress job, and photography allows me to relax a little and even come out of a shell that I had built around me. I enjoy the creative part of me that was bottled up in many ways working in a corporate environment.
    As for the prize, I would use the funds to invest in wardrobe for some of my subjects. Thanks again!ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 8:31 am

    Ellen - Wow Brooke….I simply can’t believe that you are writing about the exact thing that I just published a blog post about as well today. That is amazing…
    I do try to start over, to be a beginner often even or should I say especially after 21 years of having been a professional artist.If I could begin again entirely, I would have not waited sooooo many years to start taking my passion for photography seriously.
    It was so much easier to start with something when I had nothing invested in it. When I started out as a soft sculpture artist, I did not have an income depending on it and could experiment to my heart’s desire. Now that I am trying to get my photography off the ground, the need for income often means I can’t do the things that I would really love to do, which is sharing my passion for the magical side of the reality and my seeking of stillness with the world. I would use the money to give me time to write a class so I can share what I am so passionate about. Have the most wonderful day
    Ellen XReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 8:31 am

    Alex Paul D - My good friend is a huge fan of your work, and a total weirdo that you’d love and appreciate. hehe, but it is true.
    She has bones and skulls all over her house, and never passes up the opportunity to take more home. Butterflies and snail shells, feathers and antlers – her home is a giant cabinet of curiosities.
    She’s a photographer, and her work was getting really creative and special this last year, until she found herself without a camera.
    Last month her dog passed away from cancer.
    She had two cameras, and she sold one to pay for her dogs chemotherapy when she thought he still had a chance.

    And then three weeks ago her old trusty camera finally broke, and she said the money that it costs to fix it is better spent on a new refurbished camera. So now she’s a photographer with no camera, trying so hard to get a new one asap.
    She’s been hustling hard to buy a new refurb, and is still taking care of animals, and her father.
    I’ve been wanting to do something nice for her for a long time, but didn’t know what. So I nominate her for the cash giveaway.

    She’s a great friend, and she’s just fantastic all around. Always puts others before herself, and now she’s in a bad spot because of it.
    She’s been saving up to buy a new (used) camera, and I know every little bit will help her reach her goals faster.
    I dunno if she’d like me posting this publicly, so I’m not gonna say her name or post a link to her site. But, I would sent it to you personally so you can see her work if you’d like.
    But again, I nominate my friend and you can use my email to get her contact information/website/email, etc…
    This would make her day, week, month and she wouldn’t even know what to do with that level of kindness.
    Thanks for being such an inspiration. I’m not an artist but I’ve appreciated your work for so many years. Found you on FLickr back when it was the thing. Keep on with it, Brooke!ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 8:46 am

    Turla Peterson - If I could start over again I would not listen to so many people of what I should be or should not. I should have listen to my heart and follow what really my passion. I like creating stories and telling it using photographs. I accomplished it by watching your videos and really learning from you. I made this comment just to thank you for all the inspiration you’ve given me. Through you I learned to express my true passion. I really do not need the $150 but if I happen to be the fortunate one, I would like to donate it to one of your organization that help victims of human trafficking.ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 8:57 am

    Mary - Brooke! You always look like your having so much fun doing crazy things lol Yay! Im glad your making a weekly video again! Ive missed them 🙂ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 8:59 am

    Kim - 1) What would you do differently if you could begin again?
    I would do it all again, but with far more gratitude and focus on the goal of making a living from my photography and writing. So many years ago, I strayed and created responsibilities I was not ready for. Today, I am the one keeping the roof over our heads and the food on our table while working at a full-time job and a part-time job that do not fill that creative “need”. I want to transition to doing more creative and beneficial work, but am having a hard time taking that leap. The plan is to be ready to go and off that cliff with both feet by the end of this year.

    2) Share why you or a friend could use the $150 giveaway!
    Why could I use the $150 giveaway? That is an interesting question. It would be something extra in the budget that would allow me to use it toward taking an in-person workshop like you did, something that will get me around creative people who are already living in the world I want to be living in.ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 9:16 am

    Janet Rossmiller-Dolan - I am some what of a mentor to a niece Malayna as she enjoys photography. I would love for her to have a decent camera, but for now I have passed on an old one that a friend gave us. However, it would be great for her to be able to purchase a class of yours to inspire her and help her grow. Thank you for teaching us the fine art in photography.ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 9:18 am

    Mark Quiram - I would do most of my learning the same way (on the technical side). On the “rule” side, I would just take it under advisement only. Excepting, of course, things like DaVinci’s concepts of anatomy and the human body’s proportions and how the body moves. In portraiture, I find some things do look better because of human perception.

    In art – I would throw out the rules. I would say, “why not?” and “who said I can’t?” much more often. I would not worry about the results. I would build my business differently with less structure and forced concepts. I would be more free in artistry and ideas.

    As for the money, the Union Gospel Mission that helps the homeless could really use that money.
    Best WishesReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 9:18 am

    Geetha Slock - Brooke, you’re such an inspiration and you never seize to amaze. I love the way you approach things with so much curiosity, never letting fear get in the way. I love you trying new things, always pushing yourself. Sorry for the fangirl rant. Following your journey truly inspires me to become better. I’m still at the start of mine , so for now I’m focusing on series and cohesion (and my 52 week challenge) but I will keep this message in mind so I never shy away from new things, new experiences and not putting pressure on myself with every image I make. Just to have fun is a good enough reason to make anything :).ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 9:26 am

    Emily White - Hi Brooke! You are so incredibly inspiring and kind hearted. I remember when I first saw your photographs on Flickr. I had just begun taking photos and was trying to see what other people in the community were creating when I came across your self portraits. It completely blew open my mind about what photography could be and how we could utilize it. I saw so much vulnerability, humanity, and curiosity in your photographs. I have been an artist my whole life, but I had never before considered that I could use my own body as a tool of expression, and inevitably, healing. You showed me that photography could be used as a tool for self empathy, and that I could spread that love and acceptance to others.
    And now I am a month away from graduating art school and am about to be spit out into the real world, and I finally believe I have something real and genuine to say. Being an artist isn’t always comfortable, whether it be worrying about how you’ll feed yourself next week or worrying that your work is “good enough” ( but honestly, good enough for who?) But being an artist is incredibly rewarding as well, and with the right tools and support, I truly believe we can create more light in this world that seems so dark sometimes.
    Thank you for everything you do and are!ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 9:29 am

    Sarah - Your post spoke to my heart. I have been shooting for a long time…about 18 years now. Had a rummage sale to pay for a camera, and started my business up right away to pay for the $800 course I took. Portraits are my mental therapy.

    We have six children, and photography has always been the one thing that is all mine. It has helped pay for groceries and bills while my husband went to school to pursue his own passion (he’s always wanted to be a teacher–we married fairly young).
    My husband finally got a job as a woodshop teacher at a small public school, but it meant a huge pay cut from his desk job. I need to REALLY up my business. My husband doesn’t gift me photography equipment….I’ve earned it all myself and am proud of that, but now I need to kick my sessions up a notch, and I definitely something better for editing before my MacBook pro dies…and it’s getting there. It’s died once already and my techie son brought it back to life. It has a cracked screen, and if the cord comes out, the computer completely shuts down (replacing the battery didn’t help). Haha…but I’m milking it for all it’s worth (trying hard not to buy one on credit)

    This past Saturday, after feeling stressed and really down for months, I did a shoot for ME. I had a girl come, and I dressed her up and did her makeup and she looked and felt beautiful, and I felt everything all over again. It was like I forgot what that feels like. Now I’m hungry again. I kind of feel guilty when I shoot and don’t bring in money…..my time is limited—I homeschool 3 of our kids, we’re finishing up an addition on our house that we started 3 years ago, and sometimes my brain is just mush by the end of the day, and it’s hard for me to justify my “me” time when things are tight. But we’re working it out, and a “me” shoot once in awhile is SO GOOD.

    This was a beautiful post, beautiful self portrait. Thank you. I’m sorry that I basically wrote a novel here. 😛ReplyCancel

    • April 24, 2018 - 11:16 am

      Geetha Slock - Hey Sarah, I think it’s great you both pursue your passion, even if it means you have to work with the time you have and make sacrifices. And I mean 6 children of which you’re homeschooling 3? That’s a LOT to take on. I hope you can find the time to plan more You-shoots since I think it’s important to give your creativity an outlet. Because you’ll be happy when you do. And when you’re happy, you’ll accomplish more. At least that’a my opinion. Keep up the great work and good luck with future shoots!ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 9:29 am

    Antoine Tiggart - What’s good Brooke, if I could start over I would focus more on my own thoughts because that’s when I do my best work.ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 10:09 am

    Laura B - Brooke there is so much to comment about here; the butterflies start as hungry hungry caterpillars and magically transform, if they’re lucky, into beautiful fluttering pollinators. They get some help along the way; the plants they feed upon, sunshine, soil, water, shelter… People also need help in their journey through life! We can tend a butterfly garden, but at some point the butterfly floats away and you just have to let it go and live it’s own life.

    I’m so happy to see you’re getting the tools you need to do your art: it’s teally a gift to all of us! It’s hard to write this, and something I probably need to work on, but since this is a giveaway contest, we could use the prize money to put towards a camera since our old camera is finished.

    It’s too awkward and painful sometimes to look back and think about what I would have done differently. Instead I focus on my new project which is getting back to my original goals of filmmaking. I am outlining my first professional feature film screen play! It’s never too late to be creative!ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 10:28 am

    Melissa Mitchell - Hi Brooke, I never comment on things like this but felt inclined to do so, so here I am! I’ve had a lovely day celebrating my wedding anniversary & probably don’t need your gift as much as another may but after my camera breaking 6 weeks ago and it still in for at least 2 more weeks, I figured why not try? I complained to my repair man about having to use the college camera for my final major assignment which I now cannot loan again as it’s booked out on others final majors & he’s promised me 2 weeks longer & loaned me his d4s – fabulous! So imagine my dismay to get it home & realise it runs off a compact flash and not sd & I don’t own one! I literally cannot afford to buy one with framing and printing costs for final major plus repair costs for my camera (d610) so figured yes I don’t need as much as others but why not try? Not being able to create is making me stifled & anything’s worth a try st the minute! I love your work & your humbleness and hope one day to be as inspirational to others in both art and humanity. XxReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 11:13 am

    Carol Contreras - Hello Brooke,

    Ever since I first saw your creative live workshops I felt very curious about your style and what you create. It amazes me how you can be so honest, raw and share your passion and thoughts so easily, or at least it looks like it is easy.

    I love photography and how it can serve to many purposes, right now I am very far from where I would like to be in a creative point of view, I know I need to let myself try and fail, and that will give me more confidence about sharing regardless of what people would think. I feel I can write to you because you seem to care about people and take the time to read and answer all of our comments and I appreciate that in someone that I think is great and successful.

    I want to come to the PPC2018 and this give-away will be very helpful for that…in any case thanks for paying it forward, you have a big heart…hugsReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 11:15 am

    Su Hall - OMG! This is strange! LOL
    I create digital art. Having retired early with a disability, some 14 years ago, I dove in, head first, to Photoshop and translating my art into digital. This, obviously, requires a PC, and one that can handle Photoshop!
    I have managed all this time with whatever PC I could get, afford, manage to fix or have fixed. I’ve gone through many fixes, plus, three replacements and as many EHD’s!
    I find myself at an impasse, now, however. My PC is fritzing and I don’t know how I am going to replace, or fix it. I belong to Photoshop Artistry Group, among others, as well as, doing promotional work for several digital scrapbook designers. (Teams of us create layouts with new kits to help promote those kits. We get the kits for free for our services. The practice is fabulous!!) I stay active is my point. I make no moneys whatsoever from this. I’ve found a niche for myself among the online digital artistic communities. That is what keeps me going!
    I honestly don’t know where to turn. I have gone without getting on Photoshop a lot lately because of my PC’s issues. I find myself in a terrible funk! I need to spend my muse’s energy! I can’t do this! LOL
    Seriously, I thought about a GoFundMe page, but, that feels so selfish, somehow. I could not believe it, then, when I read this post! Some way to obtain a PC that is almost possible! LOL I know there are so many needy folks and folks who have things much worse than I do. I wish them all the best!
    But, on the off chance I could win, it would help me in more ways than imaginable!
    Thank you, Brooke!

  • April 23, 2018 - 12:02 pm

    Gallagher Green - I really like the different self-portrait style, you did a great job. It is always fun being a beginner again, I am trying to inlay some brass into steel and the learning experience has been great! 😀
    What kind of paint did you use? And does it wash out well?

    And as for the giveaway, the next thing I am saving for is my train ticket to PPC.
    But I really just want you to make a video about the new computer and how it works! I love a good computer!!! 😀ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 12:19 pm

    Vali - I’d gift it to my artist daughter and her artist kids to remind her to believe in her art heart and go buy some supplies and just make art and be art. Nice thought, this. eh? blessings.ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 12:32 pm

    Genelyn Sandaga - Back in the year 2013, I found you on the internet. I was really amazed with your photography and you as a person. You inspired me to do self-portrait / photo manipulations and it is really fun. I truly adore your art, looks surreal, but the feelings are real. Keep being inspiring!ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 1:02 pm

    Addie - Ive been doing photography for the last 11 years and got so burned out and stopped creating anything new for a long time… and for the first time ever Im refinding joy in creating stuff that is just for me, even though its provocative and probably offensive to some, but its what my soul has longed to do and Im finally doing it. And now Im having to learn things new – mainly right now how to get myself in focus for self portraits – I have no idea just yet, but Ill keep pushing! Would love some tips if you have any – thanks!ReplyCancel

    • April 24, 2018 - 11:24 am

      Geetha Slock - Hey Addie, so great you’re doing self-portraits as a way to find joy in photography again. I had trouble finding the right kind of photography for me and felt like a failure for a long time until I started taking self-portraits, just for fun, just for me. You can use a prop, a chair, a pillow, another person and manually focus on that/him/her?
      Good luck and most of all enjoy! I’d love to see your work :)!ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 1:31 pm

    Stacey - Am I the person in most need? No. But could I use the help? Absolutely! I joined Promoting Passion in 2016, and am hoping to return in Joshua Tree. I left PP2016 feeling so inspired, but my direction was not quite there. I have turned a creative page and need some creative bonding time under the incredible umbrella that Promoting Passion helps cultivate. Thank you, Brooke, for giving back in so many ways!ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 2:06 pm

    Sandy Taylor - What a wonderful take a way! Create as if you are beginning again! It’s always nice to have your world slanted to change perspective and I think this comment did it for me, so thank you. Thank you for paying it forward as well, I’m a strong believer in that. (Please don’t enter me, I know there are so many that truly deserve and need it!)ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 2:07 pm

    Sam Harnois - Hi Brooke!

    It’s Sam again.

    First off I want to say I am VERY shy about asking for money and it is something that I NEVER want to do. But I am going to do it because I am in a position where I need to put myself first. Let’s start with the fun question though!

    What would I do if I could begin again?
    I still feel in some ways, I am still in that beginning stage. I am still figuring out how my voice, perhaps even my style. I am SO excited to finish school and have much more TIME to create. But one thing I would definitely do differently is allow myself to create things without any expectation of social media responses, likes, and honestly just spend more time playing with different subjects. I feel like I was exclusively focused on levitation photography for several months when I started, and I wasn’t really open to other types of photography. If I restarted, I also would have loved to cleared my mind of the thoughts of “what can I do with my gear”, because now I realize gear is perhaps the least important part of making an image.

    The part I am uncomfortable about asking for:

    As I have mentioned, I am making a huge life-changing move across the country, possibly as early as June (OH my gosh!). As reality slowly begins to settle in, so do expenses. There are several expenses that I am beginning to realize add up quite a bit. First, I realize I need new suitcases to bring all of my clothes with me. Next, I am going to need to buy a new desk, and other items for my new apartment. I also need to pay for the plane ticket for me just to get there, and I would definitely appreciate some help. $150 would actually pay for almost half of my plane ticket, which would be a HUGE help. Or it would allow me to buy a new set of luggage AND a desk.

    I look forward to seeing who you choose.

    Thank you for being the youiest you!

  • April 23, 2018 - 2:24 pm

    Michele - Brooke, I think your work is amazing and you’re truly inspiring in many different ways. You’re already giving a lot to the world with your art and imagination, it’s very generous generous of you to also give away some money. I’m going through a financial shortage right now, but to be honest, if I had $150 extra I would totally spend it by taking my younger brother to the cirque du soleil (he’s coming to visit me from Brazil next month and he always wanted to go to one of their shows… I was saving to take him but some unexpected situations are making it very difficult right now).ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 2:31 pm

    kenneth vogelsberg - Great work!! Not look for the $ just a hello to you!ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 2:42 pm

    Kristine - Hi Brooke.Thanks for your inspiration and sharing your passion. I Remember, when I saw you on CreativeLive first time, maybe a year ago… I though this girl is insane…, but in some minutes, everything changed 🙂 I was insane… I couldn’t stop watching you,…that night was long… I haven’t slept 🙂 and from that day, everything changed… I quit my job, I bought a camera… and…it is not so easy as it seemed 🙂 it is hard work. as someone said – if you buy a camera, you became a photographer, if you buy a violin, – you own a violin. I own a camera 😀 Every day I watch one lesson on CreativeLive. A little bit basics, all courses on photography in live, and these steps are soooooo small. I would love to purchase your course, and a book, where is your art- Impossible photography… I could dream a lot, what I would do if…. 😀
    Thanks Brooke, for all the things you do, and for your beautiful art. And I hope to meet you one day in a person. 🙂
    P.S ( I apologize for my English – I am Latvian, living now in Italy)
    Have a nice day.ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 2:51 pm

    Lucie Salgado - For a long time I felt as though my creative expression was hindered in some way. I could feel this energy building up inside me, propelling me to create, and yet I could not really do it, and later I came to realize it was because I was using that energy in all the wrong ways. I’m a portrait artist at heart, and working as an illustrator would have me create portraits for a living, but nonetheless it never felt like a true expression of mine – it was all very mechanic, lifeless, the reproduction/execution of an idea rather than its creation, which at the end of all days would leave me drained and frustrated, depressed, unsatisfied. It was only recently that I made the decision of beginning again, which is something that may seem very counterproductive when you think you have anything figured out, but that is, in fact, extremely rewarding, as you’ve been discovering yourself! It was the best decision I have ever made! I decided to begin again by putting creative expression as my priority, and so I left behind all illustration works and turned to fine arts with all my heart and soul. The first surprise was to discover I didn’t know as much as I thought I did, and within the possibilities contained in the unknown I found so much excitement and joy, it just seem to have brought me back to life. I’ve never felt as excited and happy as I’ve been the past few weeks, when I have been creating and learning just for the joy of it. The only little downside of all that is that my finances are still to catch up with the changes, and so the money could very well help me keep going and meeting my expenses, which goes for bills and rent and supplies that I need to continue to follow the path I have only just stepped into.
    I sincerely admire your work and what you’re doing is simply beautiful and so very inspiring, I hope you will keep that curious spirit alive and continue to expand your creations to its fullest. Thank you for sharing, and thank you for giving back to this amazing community – we’re all in this together, and what little thing you’ll do for one will always work in benefit for the whole. Much love to you!ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 3:08 pm

    Amy - This is beautiful Brooke 🙂 I love the tones & the texture. I have this rose gold metallic body paint around, you have inspired me to finally experiment with it! It looked like so much fun in your video 🙂ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 3:57 pm

    Yuliana - Hello Brooke! I’ve been following your work for more than a year now, and even saw your Fine Art Portraits class from Creativelive. You have inspired me and my friends in ways I cannot even describe. I am a student of Graphic Design in Merida, Venezuela. Fortunately, I am in a relatively good position regarding money in comparison to my classmates… which is why it pains me to see so many talented people with such limitations because of the situation our country is in. If I happen to obtain the money, I will use it to organize a contest in my Faculty of Arts (Universidad de Los Andes), possibly a fine art / illustration contest + fine art photography contest, in order to give the money to someone who is a passionate and great artist, and wins the prize. If that should happen, I would document everything and take pictures of the event in order to show it to you and share it. 150$ may not be a lot in the US, but in Venezuela it is really a lot of money, that could help a student to buy medicines, food and keep on going with his/her arts and crafts. It could help the winner to begin again, and to believe in his/her craft… to rebuild passion and to believe that dreams are possible, even if the situation in our country is more than difficult. Thank you so much for your work, you’re an inspiration to many!ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 4:28 pm

    Anna Bruce - What a wonderful thing to do! In essence, I am starting again. I have always loved Self Portraits and was drawn to Cindy Sherman in High School. I did a lot of self portraiture in college but never composite. In the last year, I have been starting all over again. As a portrait photographer who got really great at studio and natural light portraits, composite portraits of myself are completely new. I edit them in a new way than I would my studio portraits and of course shoot them differently. In studio, I love shooting with my 50mm between 2-2.8 and I shoot very close up. With my self portraits I shoot with my 24-70mm around 4.0 and very far away. I am used to creating many images with my studio where as my self portraits I shoot many images to create one final piece. If I won, I would donate the money to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (where I adopted my two kittos). Animals are my weak spot and this amazing shelter provided me with the two most amazing cats I could have ever asked for. But also being from Venezuela, I would give it to Yuliana (above) who is currently living in Venezuela where things are so hard right now. You can’t even get basic necessities and it is so dangerous there. I am grateful for the opportunities that I have been given in life and for having moved to the USA before things got really bad there. I know that who ever wins this generous gift, will do amazing things with it. Thank you for being you.ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 5:16 pm

    Sharon Fennell - When I was first starting out with self portrait photography, one of my main setbacks was self consciousness. I was terrified for people to see me, to really see me, mind and body. Because of this, I held myself back from creating dozens of ideas I had floating around in my head. Because of my fears, I dimmed my creative light. Eventually I started caring a little less, realizing that my art is not about my body; it’s about my heart. I’m still self conscious, but I care less about what others think of my body, and I am freer to create the things I see in my head. If I could start over, I would work harder on loving myself, and creating despite my fears. I’ve thought a lot about it, and I know that there are definitely others who need the prize much more than I do. I’m just happy being able to see your works and watch your videos. Your spirit is so kind and genuine, your art is honest and beautiful, and you’ve truly inspired me beyond words. So for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. <3ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 5:33 pm

    Marissa - I’ve always been sick (fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, IBS, etc) and I’m getting worse (almost 40 years old). I love photography but the most, photo manipulations. I can’t do all I have in my mind, but I continue trying over and over again. I don’t give up!
    I can’t work and that extra money would be amazing. I have so many problems out of my health that something nice it would be a big motivation. Even just a few words from you. That would be amazing ^^
    Thanks for all your work, your kindness and motivation.
    Hope life continues being good with you and all the people you love.
    Much love,
    PD: I’m still trying to improve my English after 5 years living in USA. I’m a mess XDReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 5:38 pm

    Sarah - I would us the money toward fixing an old Rolleiflex I picked up. I’m going to begin shooting film which I haven’t done since I was a kid. I’m so excited to begin this mew journey!!ReplyCancel

  • April 24, 2018 - 12:32 am

    Jasminr - I would use the money to create some photo art I’ve been wanting to get out in the world ❤️ it’s been a tough few months money wise so any props and costumes would make so much of a difference. You’re an inspiration, Brooke!ReplyCancel

  • April 24, 2018 - 4:10 am

    Vicki Kurasz - Even though I’ve had nothing but bad luck and major bills this year: broken ankle (no insurance, missing work, I am my only income), fridge died, toaster died, dryer died, car needed repairs, may be losing my studio space so will have to pay higher rent besides moving everything (what’s next?!!)…I’m not nominating myself. I’m nominating a friend.

    She moved to my area a few years ago for a guy that turned out to be mentally abusive. She got away from him but suffers PSD from that experience. Last year she started having bad luck. Large car expenses (still needs more fixed), lost her job that she loved (even though they have kept her on in other departments, she didn’t have full time at first), worrying about her adult children, and I know there were more issues. She has been trying to save up to buy a newer camera but the financial difficulties haven’t allowed her to save up.

    She is also fabulous at drawing, but she hasn’t been doing much drawing because she is feeling so down. At least my broken ankle got her to draw some. She gave me a sneak peek at something she is drawing for me (I was blown away at what I saw).

    Wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all better for her. She tries focusing on the positives out of everything, but we all know how hard that is when it is one thing after another going wrong.ReplyCancel

  • April 24, 2018 - 4:50 am

    Francois - Hi Brooke, What I will do with 150$? Well I will paid it foward also by buying treats for models who will shootin TF this summer with me. I in the developping mode of the new me. I will try to push my limits and do conceptual photography for almost the first time, at least at those levels. Have a great dayReplyCancel

  • April 24, 2018 - 4:52 am

    Carolyn D'Alessandro - I find this so interesting that so many people are not needing help and so kind and willing to pass it on. In reading this I feel ashamed of the fact that I do need help. I had a Nikon D300 for as long as I can remember. They fit in my hand so well. About three months ago it died and I died with it. It is my passion and I have been doing photography for over 30 years. My shutter just gave up. It would cost to repair more then the camera is worth. I don’t have what I need to just run out and purchase a new camera so I have been saving and still need more funds to make it a reality. I would love to purchase a D800 but that is really pushing my dreams so I settled on a little more realistic D7200. I am close, but not close enough.
    I wish I had met you when I started photography I would be amazing by now. I love your work, your outlook on life and your inspiration. Thank you, Brooke, for all you do.ReplyCancel

  • April 24, 2018 - 5:43 am

    Jemina - Hi Brooke,
    I’ve admired your work since I was about 15 or so. It’s been great to see you grow, and I often find my own work in film to express similar topics and emotions you portray in your work. I’m sorry about your laptop, but I’m glad Microsoft came to the rescue! Keep being you and doing the great and unique work you do!

    As for the $150, I would do it so I could see my fiancé again…We’ve been separated by distance for nearly 5 years now and were supposed to be married 5 months ago, but there was a problem with my visa application to the US. Since I am not allowed to enter the USA while my new application is processed and he can only fly to Europe this summer to see me once, I would spend the money to meet him in Vienna where he will be doing research. It’s a very simple wish, to be next to the person you love the most and are separated the most from, but it is also a privilege most people do not appreciate. To me it means everything to be able to physically be in my fiancé’s presence, to be able to hold him, instead of crying because I cannot remember what it feels like to be held.
    On another note, whether I’d get $150 or not, I hope you keep creating the work you do. It speaks to me on a completely different level, processing hidden feelings or thoughts, rediscovering things about myself, and I often find myself inspired by your work when I try to make films.ReplyCancel

  • April 24, 2018 - 5:45 am

    John Clyde - Hi. I’m john from the Philippines. I have started to take interest in photography since I was 15 or 16. Back then, my parents were not in good terms then eventually decided to separate. I’ve been left with the responsibility to look after my siblings since I was the eldest. I was depressed that time and was thinking about negative things but I would say that photography saved me. I took photos and it ‘opened my eyes’. I felt like I am seeing the world for the first time. Whenever I feel sad, I would just walk and notice details about things that I’ve never noticed before. There’s always this urge to take a picture of something. I don’t know but I am hooked. It greatly helped me in going through my life and I learned to appreciate the things I have and people that I interact with. 🙂 I took my photos with my phone and I think it will be better if I have a camera. ^^ReplyCancel

  • April 24, 2018 - 7:12 am

    Laura - Hi Brooke!

    You probably don’t remember me, but I took your workshop in NYC like 5 years ago. It was awesome and totally stirred a life long love of photography!

    It feels a little weird asking for the money in this giveaway (as I’m sure there are always so many more people who need it!) But right now that type of money would certainly be helpful. Sadly, back in November (two days before thanksgiving) my apartment burned down. By the grace of god the things that matter to me most – my partner, neighbors, our cats, and photo equipment all survived…but it’s been a rough few months: we had to move in with family far away, have none of our own furniture, and have been struggling living week to week.

    $150.00 isn’t a life changing amount of money, of course, but just thinking off the top of my head: for us it would either a) cover a month of groceries. or b) let us take a weekend air bnb trip upstate to get away for a weekend and take our minds off how hard these past few months have been. Either of those things would make me and my partner super happy. 🙂

    Whomever you give it to though, I know it will be someone who deserves it very much and I am already so happy for them!

    Have a great day. xoxo


  • April 24, 2018 - 10:38 am

    Lorretta J Clarke - I don’t need the money – although I can’t justify spending any money on photography – I would like a calibrator for my laptop, but considering people that are struggling to live, I can wait. I have to say something about your going back to your roots and a lesson I have learned and hopefully resonates with others. I used to be a painter and had no hindrance to ideas when I was younger. After a long break bringing up my daughter, I thought I could just switch this creativity back on. I learned that I didnt have the patience with the paints, so thought photography would be ideal for me. However, I learned that my struggle was with the creative process. I have shot many landscapes, many weddings etc and got caught up in the process rather than the creativity and realized that this was because I had lost the avenue of creativity. Realizing this and armed with an abundance of technique I turned to creativity, but soon learned that one’s unique “creativity” or “storytelling” (that feeling of complete assurance that you are tuned into what you are here to do) isn’t something you can just switch on at will. I have come to the realization that the creative process is blocked by resistance, trying too hard. There seems to be a frequency that you have to tap into to have that ecstasy that comes with the creative process. How to get there, stick a toe in everywhere and don’t commit yourself until you have electric shock feeling. Classes are good, but the key may well be going back to your roots with ease, doing other things that make you happy because creativity. happiness and joy are the same frequency. and eventually the ideas will come.ReplyCancel

  • April 24, 2018 - 10:52 am

    Noe - Brooke! I love to read you, is like a good way to give me an impulse for the week. I’m from Paraguay and here to live or pay bills working with art is really hard. I’m learning mostly online and improving in every way I can. Thank you for you weekly newsletter. Love!ReplyCancel

  • April 25, 2018 - 8:01 am

    Anna - You recently said you returned to your darker roots, primal inspiration, I think it is a wonderful decision, these darker images also are the ones among your pictures which inspire me, love the recent one with the tested out spine, the series from Creative Life Fine Art course, the one with two “sisters” in white on the escalator, these really resonate with me. I totally understand the decision to start learning anew, even the greatest artists may be threatened with stagnation at some point, although I believe an artist usually, as George Crewdson once said , has only one story to tell, you still need keep discovering the means to do so.
    I always used to write then turned to photography after some sort of a crisis, as much I love it, it somehow feels nearly like esciapism compared to writing. Remember you saying once that self portrait makes you feel the full ownership of the picture , I feel the same and find self portrait most fulfilling, although love portraits in general, unlike you I’m drawn to faces. I started simply. Just learning craft on Portraits it now moving slowly more towards a concept, a story .
    It has not been easy to reconcile creating with hated full time office job, chronic fatigue and pilling debts , life seems to be pushing against art and art against life, who knows which and to what extent will win in the end…ReplyCancel

  • April 25, 2018 - 6:34 pm

    Ceili - Brooke, you are truly inspirational, both as an artist and as a human being. Thank you for sharing yourself so honestly with the world and for paying it forward! A week ago I met and became the assistant for a local artist. Twenty years ago he suffered traumatic brain injury when his car was hit by a truck while waiting at an intersection. He lost relationships and his life went from being a dentist and teaching classes at Harvard to being unable to read or write. He was bed-ridden for a year after having back surgery. Art had been a part of his life since childhood. Even as a dentist, he worked on art projects as a hobby. He used dental material such as alginate impression material to make masks of his friends’ faces and melted down old gold fillings to make jewelry, such as wedding rings. Since the accident he has not been able to work but has been able to create art. But even his art has changed and he believes it’s for the better. His colors are bright and his subject matter is both what is physically around him and the moment he is in. His work is happier and he is more prolific than ever before. He is 73 yrs. old now and wants to share his art and positive outlook on life as well as support and inspire others with disabilities. If chosen, I would give the $150 to him to continue his work.ReplyCancel

How often do you make something that surprises you?

As the great photographer Jerry Uelsmann once said, and I paraphrase – if he has any goal, it is to surprise himself.

I think that is one of the most profound statements an artist can adopt. It is so difficult to surprise ourselves. After all, we are ourselves. To do something so out of our usual comfort zone that even we are surprised by what we do or the outcome of what we do is my mission.

I found that recently I wasn’t very surprised by myself. And by recently, I mean the past handful of years. I took risks, but they were calculated. I took risks that weren’t really all that dangerous. So, were they risks at all if I have to categorize them as baby risks? Probably not.

When I started photography I would have done anything – misshapen bodies, weird contortions, grotesque imagery. I think that as my taste for imagery grew, so did my images. But, they became more normal.

I’m beginning to shed that.
I’m beginning to stand out.

I’m doing it in small steps. I’m working my way back to the macabre. But I’m going there, little by little, day by day.

In today’s video, we’re looking at a step back to those ideals. Some philosophy, some shooting, some editing…and of course, my spine.

(Well, not my spine. My elk spine.)

Essentially, it comes down to this. I want to be willing to look into a strangers eyes and not break eye contact. I want to be able to stand proudly with my art, as dark as it may be or become, and be willing to stand by it. I want to represent my art by not backing down, but presenting my vision and not caring if it is weird or makes me an outsider.

I’m working on it.

How often do you create something that surprises you?



  • April 16, 2018 - 7:33 am

    Vicki Kurasz - You amaze me. The things your brain comes up with, your personality, and the ending cracked me up. Keep it all coming! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • April 16, 2018 - 7:55 am

    Sara Harley - It has been a few months since I surprised myself, which means it has been too long. I have actually been struggling with this concept for a while now, feeling a lot of angst without really knowing why. It was just this morning (before reading your post) that I decided to shake things up. I had joined instagram in January, but found I was posting things just for people to “like”…not for myself or my creative process. So I made a few decisions this morning to change my process and the way I spend my time. I want to share my creations, but not through the standard instagram or facebook paths. Your post has perfect timing for me, and a message that I am starting on the right path for me.ReplyCancel

  • April 16, 2018 - 8:28 am

    Amy - So proud of you! At your level of success it must be much harder to take creative risks, but you should! That is one of my main goals with my career, never to fear whether my work will be loved and to create whatever I want despite what people think. I find that although I appreciate the support of others, I’m most satisfied when I love the image and connect with it myself (these usually end up being the least popular of my images now that I think of it… Not sure what you mean by surprising myself. Could you clarify on that? I planned the pictures so I’m not surprised lol I look forward to watching you grow ReplyCancel

  • April 16, 2018 - 10:23 am

    Vali - i did something surprising lately. it has been a long time since I did. it reminded me of when I started 40 years ago and was squashed into thinking a) i wasn’t an artist and b) i wasn’t an artist. c) be normal. your video to day…o…thank you. perfect.
    I”m not sure where “risk” is for me now, but I do know “vulnerable” so that is the edge for me to stand at..and “look into its eyes.”ReplyCancel

  • April 16, 2018 - 11:29 am

    Julie - I don’t surprise myself nearly as much as I used to surprise myself. Your blog really resonated with me. Right now, I need to spend some time discovering the now me, while revisiting the before me. And, beyond the thought process, I need to journal these awakenings as not to forget. I wish I had a pensieve to sort and contain my thoughts as I’ve found that my mind becomes bogged down with trivia and experiences throughout the years. I’m reminded of this weekend course I took many years ago, Landmark Forum. During that weekend one of the presenters shared this (my interpretation of what was said): When we are young we don’t have walls and fences built up around our hearts and minds; we act bizarre, we do whatever –dancing, screaming, making silly faces; then, someone tells us, ‘no’, we shouldn’t do such things. If we do those things someone might think ill of us. Slowly those fences and walls start to take shape, and before we know it, there’s a well constructed perimeter placed around our heart and mind. Right, shouldn’t we concern ourselves with how others’ perceive us? We don’t have to be so vulnerable when those fences or walls are strategically placed. It’s time to become surprised!ReplyCancel

  • April 16, 2018 - 1:49 pm

    elizabeth reynolds - Brook-

    I’m sure you hear this all the time…but your blog and email
    help me immensely take action to (albeit slowly) crack out of a
    cement chrysalis I’ve been stuck in most of my life.

    My dream is to create images and little by little I see my path open to myself. You’re an intricate part of this for me. Thank you for unwittingly being part of my personal healing team.
    My personal growth team.


  • April 16, 2018 - 3:35 pm

    jeanne - sadly I”m at the beginning of the learning here and to say I would be surprised at my work would be I”d be surprised if I got it to look like I wanted it to. I shall keep working at it!ReplyCancel

  • April 16, 2018 - 7:25 pm

    Gallagher Green - My first thought when I saw this photo was “That is the creepiest thing she has made in a long time!” and I like it! The second thing I thought was “The elk spine is back!” LOL. Is the spine still held together naturally, or is it now glued?
    I love the idea of creating to “Shock myself”, I have been feeling a little non-creative in the photography area lately, so hopefully this will help!
    Wonderful video, thanks. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • April 18, 2018 - 12:29 pm

    Jon Miller - I would say the last time I create something that surprised me was 3 days ago, I did a shoot expecting a certain result and got something better than expected.. Needless to say I was quite happy about the results. This does not happen often but when it does it makes all the reading and calculating and drawings worth it.ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2018 - 9:15 pm

    Ruth Bilowus Butler - I created something surprising several years ago, but I didn’t think too much of it until I unearthed it awhile back.
    That happens with a lot of my images… I need to get away from them for awhile and I appreciate them as if they were created by someone else.
    Always loved Jerry Uelsmann’s work and his partner wife(?) Maggie Taylor. I took photography from Les Krims attending Buffalo State when Cindy Sherman was there and the Hall Walls group evolved.
    I’m on video 77 of your creative live series which is filling in a lot of creative and technical gaps for me. I so appreciate the convenience of learning and being inspired from home. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 7:30 am

    paulla - A couple of years ago I started making selfportraits, I called them selfies with a different approach. Simple things, simple editing. Mainly bw. I came across your work and I thought, oh my, I should stop this. But I didn’t. Since then I’ve surprised myself so many times. Some are nice, some are not, but there’s this need to continue to surprise myself and do better, learn other things.
    You are a true inspiration. Keep on doing, teaching. We really need people like you in this world. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • May 9, 2018 - 6:19 am

    Neviekur - I’m nobody in this world of visual creation and my abilities are very limited, so my opinion is not very important, but I understand and share this reflection.
    People are often obsessed with finding their own style. Do not worry, we all end up having our own style. Because we all have reduced tastes, preferences and very limitations. We are not omniscient or almighty. Sooner or later we end up repeating ourselves, turning our tastes into tics and obsessions that become familiar. That is what we usually call our own style. Finding it gives us a sense of identity (I am unique and singular: I have my own style) but it also becomes a golden cage. Being totally identical to ourselves, we are already unable to surprise ourselves. What was once an unusual find has become familiar and trivial. That’s why maybe people who do not get to know themselves completely, who have some unexplored inner landscapes (although sometimes they present themselves as chaos, anguish, pain or any other apparently negative feeling), are the people still able to surprise themselves and others. This is expressed in the myth of Phoenix: to be able to ignite an euphoria that incinerates us, to be reborn from our own ashes. A myth of symbolic death and creative rebirth.
    The unusual and surprising is born into the frontier of the known and the unknown, the self and the non-self, the conscious and the unconscious, the light and the shadow. Monotheism of dark is as reductionist as monotheism of luminous. A complex gaze about world and about us needs both. Darkness saves us from the blindness by an excess of light, light saves us from the blindness by an excess of darkness. Beyond the manichean opposition of light and darkness, maybe it is inside of chiaroscuro, in the misty border between enthusiasm and desolation, joy and sadness, reason and imagination, reality and desire, tragedy and comedy where beats the heart of lucidity.
    In order to continue surprising ourselves, perhaps we must accept that we are frontier creatures and that there is not identity more creative than the one born of our own contradictions.

    Sorry for this so long comment. I hope you’ll be able to be reborn from your own ash layer and come back to surprise yourself, like a photophoenix bird of textures and brushes. LolReplyCancel