You Can’t Do That

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • May 28, 2018 - 1:16 pm

    Geetha Slock - Hi Brooke,

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

  • May 28, 2018 - 2:30 pm

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

  • May 29, 2018 - 5:39 am

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

  • May 30, 2018 - 3:02 pm

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

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

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

  • May 31, 2018 - 8:27 am

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

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

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

  • June 1, 2018 - 4:39 am

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

  • June 1, 2018 - 12:32 pm

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

  • June 4, 2018 - 6:16 am

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

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