In Our Little World

In Our Little World

Yesterday I was honored by speaking at Imaging USA for the first time. I had never been to the conference before and it was my first time exploring and getting to know the layout. I love going to conventions because I can sit in on classes and meet new people, though admittedly I always feel very out of place. The photography conventions I have been to do not cater to the fine art photographer, but I think, perhaps, that is why I enjoy them. I like being immersed in a world of photography that is not my own.

I began my lecture sitting barefoot on the edge of the stage, hugging as many people as I could and generally feeling really happy about life. I was about to talk about my passion and what could be better than sharing what you love with others? I did my talk, and then a shooting demo with someone I met on the sidewalk that morning as the model! Sticks and a lot of baby powder later, and voila! A photograph. I edited it right after for everyone to see.

Now here is where we get to the part of this story that I am having trouble pushing out of my mind, and so I wanted to write on it. After the demos I went outside to greet people and say thanks for coming (and more hugs!) and I heard a couple things repeated by many people.

One was that I am a very controversial speaker. Exactly why I could not say, nor did I expect to hear that, but the general sentiment was that I was speaking on things that do not get spoken of very often and that I do so in a very matter-of-fact way. From my point of view, I say what I think and I say it from the heart. I don’t mind if people agree or disagree and I am simply grateful that anyone thinks anything at all!Β Another was about how strange it is that I am not selling a product. I guess it is normal for a speaker to sell products after their lecture, but I am just terrible at things like that.

I understand why I may be different from some other speakers (though in truth I don’t know many speakers or generally what the education is like at conventions, I speak only from comments I heard after the lecture). I do not think this is good or bad, that I am better or worse. People need to sell to make money and I get that, and I simply don’t have many products to sell and I adore connecting without a product in between us. People talk technique because it is part of what fuels the creative process, and well…it’s fascinating!

I think the thing that has been stuck in my mind ever since the convention is one very simple thing: I am stuck in my head, lost in my own little world and I love it there so much that I have a hard time getting out. I go to a convention, I meet wonderful people, but I cannot do things how it is normally done for fear of losing myself. I walked around the expo yesterday in a daze, looking at all of the booths and products, not understanding what more than half of them were, all the while composing a short story in my head. Perhaps that is the problem. Or not.

Every single person has something about them that is unique. It could be as simple as understanding who you want to be and acting on it. It could be that you have a story to tell that the world needs to hear. It might be something from your past or something yet to come in your future, or something unfolding right now that sets you apart. But whatever it is, it is there, and it can be fueled and embraced.

I used to be terrified of events like Imaging. I used to fear crowds and people and conversations. And what has changed is not huge but is fundamental and so important, and that is how I embrace myself and my weirdness. I love imagination and stories and getting lost in a place filled with wonder and awe, and so often, that place is the story in my mind. And so, when I go out to conventions and things of that nature, I find it simple now to retreat inside myself and speak from a place of love and honesty. I speak from the inside out. And when I am judged negatively, it does not hurt because I am so content with the messages coming from my heart. Whether someone else is content with that message is not for me to worry about.

Are you lost in your own little world or wish you were lost there more? Are you finding your weirdness or have found it? What makes you unique?


58 thoughts on “In Our Little World

  1. When I was in high school…when dinosaurs roamed…I would daydream all the time and doodle in my sketch pad. Whatever came to mind would come to life on my paper…usually at the expense of paying attention or doing homework.

    However, I find as I have become an adult with adult responsibilities that daydreaming and free-flow type thinking is often overpowered by my pragmatism. Of course it is good to be responsible and grown up when needed, but for me it is really hard to separate the two and allow both to coexist in a compatible way.

    I put my art and weirdness on the shelf while raising my daughter, for the most part, but now that she is away at college, I wish I felt more at ease with letting go and being able to get lost in my own world and gave less credence to the counterproductive energy of what I think I should be doing rather than what I want to be doing.

    Undoing 20 years of being a grown up is a hard and sometimes frustrating thing, but the more I practice the better I am getting at it and being dialed into like minded people such as you makes it considerably less uncomfortable, like there is a safe space for weirdos like me!!

    1. Oh Mary, how I identify with what you said. I do have a very childlike demeanor I think, but I have a hard time mixing grown-up responsibilities with that other side of me. My husband and I discuss this all the time. I am trying to work on being a bit more responsible while never losing an inch of that other side. I know you will find all that you are looking for in your creativity and passion, and I can’t wait to see it come into full bloom. You have a safe space here always, and I really hope our paths cross soon.

    2. Again, I wish there was a “like” button! One of the thinks that I think is so amazing about you is your child-like innocence and sense of wonder and amazement in the way you look at things and it is totally reflected in your art. Don’t ever lose that, it is so special and precious πŸ™‚

  2. I love that even in convention frenzy (and beyond )that you are just you. Your comfort within your own skin is why you are able to share yourself so genuinely. You inspire me to find my comfort and my voice despite the voices of others. Here is to the beautiful places within our hearts and minds.

    1. Awwww thank you Kristin! That means so much to me. There is truly nothing more empowering than understanding who you want to be and then becoming it. I draw all inspiration from a place of self-confidence xoxoxo

  3. Brooke, thank you so much for this! What is very intimidating to me in the world of photography is how critical people can be. I’ve always been so afraid to do something I “wasn’t supposed to” in my images. I have always, ALWAYS been a rule follower… always afraid to fail. So I adore the fact that you’re just you…. not a rule follower at all, but a heart follower. You do what you love, what you feel, what you think and are able to embrace that. This is so incredibly encouraging to me and is helping me to be able to embrace myself and what I have to offer, as well. You are an amazing teacher and I know many, many people were touched by what you had to say that day. I wish I had been one of them!

    1. Oh Michelle thank you so much, your words touch me deeply. I can’t wait to see you step out and just BE – because I know you are passionate and filled with something wonderful <3 <3 <3

  4. Would it be weird to say I love you? haha. Seriously Brooke, you’re such an incredible person and the way you speak about the things you love is just so amazing. I think the word I’m trying to find is content. I love that you’re so content with everything, and who you are. That is so inspiring and I hope that one day I can get to that.

    And it’s strange because lately I’ve been thinking about things that make me feel like I’m a weird person. I don’t know if you or other people could relate to this, but I love music SO much. And the genres I listen to are all over the place. One second I’d be listening to Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers, the next John Mayer and Ben Harper, then Within Temptation and Epica and string quartets and orchestras. I recently realized how much I love gothic and symphonic metal and it’s weird because.. well whenever I think “gothic”, I think of my teenager self with all the eyeliner and broodiness. But now I see it in a completely different way, and I’ve been thinking that it could be something I want to bring into my photography. How, i’m not sure yet. But yeah, I have been feeling pretty weird about myself and my passions/interests. Also, I love all things vintage and floral and pretty, but I also love modern and industrial and futuristic. Lol, I’m so confused!

    1. Amani, you’re the greatest πŸ™‚ And you know what? It is so much better to have lots of passions and understand that your weirdness is what will set you apart from the crowd. Better to have lots of passions than none at all, and certainly better to understand why you are passionate than to be lost in the game of trying to be someone you’re not.

  5. Love this photo, and post, wish I could have witnessed it’s creation!

    My opinion is that these seemingly negative comments are 1) made out if envy, 2) not necessarily negative, but a critical analysis made from someone coming from a different perspective.

    You do have a product to see sell: it’s the Brooke Shaden Experience! Art, beauty, inspiration, motivation. Very few people have the ability or luxury of creating and living the brand they’ve created. I’m not sure what’s controversial about you, but I can certainly imagine that there would be people jealous of your success!

    1. Thanks Laura! Yeah I don’t think anyone said anything to be mean or negative (well, except that one person..haha!) but as always, so interesting to hear feedback on something that you didn’t see before, and to realize something about yourself that was previously hidden. xoxo

  6. I think that being controversial and not selling a product are two great compliments!

    As you tend to speak of the creative process and how to listen to yourself more than technical details, you will always be outside the mainstream of photography, which is a great place to be. Your willingness to speak about translating emotion to images and the process that helps many of us get there is a breath of fresh air in the world of photography; plus the amount of love you bring into your presentation and interaction with everyone is truly inspiring!!

    Most photographers who speak at conventions tend to talk about how to solve a particular technical challenge with the latest wonderful product from Acme Co. The fact that your presentation is truly product agnostic probably surprised a lot of listeners, as they expect to have to go over to a booth to pick up a magic fix that will allow them to bring images to life in your incomparable manner. You may want to strike a deal with some manufacturer of sugar pills, so that you can sell them after each presentation, and tell people to choose between the pill that makes them big and the one that makes them small πŸ™‚

    Keep being you and you will see more of us doing our own unique, weird thing!!

  7. So, so sad that I missed you at Imaging. After experiencing your workshop in New Jersey, I no longer think of myself as “different” but “thinking from the inside out.” The sublimity of being in your presence is to experience true awe.

  8. i LOVE everything about you how you present yourself, carry yourself and inspire everyone and how you just do what you do in your way. i think its amazing that you do not PUSH a product. i have been reteaching myself this digital photography stuff for past year and a half and i’m becoming frustrated with everyone who is out selling “quick fixes” or products so you can shoot like them but its a dupe you need practice, experience. Now i almost do not trust alot of people who “teach” because i feel like they are just hawking some new product for money. the experience alone from watchng you teach is amazing. how you do things with minimal gear. how you are not caught up in the perfect photo but a photo that speaks to you emotionally which because you do that your work is phenominal! i love that your weird though i dont see you as weird at all! but i found in the past few years i am an oddball and its ok cuz its fun.

  9. I haven’t been to many of the “traditional” conventions, the show of my choice has always been Photoshop World. There are show instructors there that are selling things, but it’s pretty rare. There is a expo floor for vendors and product demos, but the classrooms themselves are not really “sales focused.” I was very excited when I saw you speak as Adobe’s guest at the LV show last year. I was hoping that you might be an instructor soon πŸ™‚

  10. I adore that last part, where you say you speak from the heart and whether other people judge you or not isn’t for you to worry about.

    I’ve learned so much from you this past 6 months but more than just being inspired I’ve been able to get past all the negative things people say to me, or about my work and try to bring me down. Ive learned from you that I will fail and its okay because that means I’m learning something, and I shouldn’t care what others say of my failure, or if they hate me and my work even.

    I have family that loves my work, friends, and more importantly I love my new inspired works that come from my heart and my own experiences and emotions. I have found it a great healing source and outlet for my emotions of being abondoned by my mother, sexually abused as a child, and many other things. I love what I do now and looking back to just last year, I was making money, but I wasn’t HAPPY in my art and that is NOT living, thats just getting by and going through the motions of life. Now I feel empowered, motivated, and like I have a purpose to my life.

    1. Tara, you are such a rare person and I love you for it. Thank you for sharing yourself and your story and I am so glad to hear that you are empowered and creating and living life to the fullest!

  11. Bravo. One of the reasons I’ve never gone to a photography convention is because they seem very similar to Amway conventions. All the speakers are selling something because the reality is that a photography cannot just make a living with photography anymore.

    It’s refreshing to hear you did your own thing and went against the grain. I respect that.

    1. Thanks Brian! I do love conventions, just never quite realized how little I fit in until now…and I embrace it πŸ™‚

  12. I am comforted by the fact that you seem so in touch with yourself and with us, your audience. You ask such a powerful question, “Are you lost in your own little world…” I just did a photoshoot on Sunday and was not happy with the results. it didn’t look bad, it just didn’t reflect what I was trying to do. I didn’t learn from the event, about myself or how I could have improved it. I was not in my world. I love your book. I have been reading it since your gallery and the comments above are very correct. You’re not selling a product, you’re selling the idea of creativity, your methods, your mindset. It’s like being in your world for the briefest of moments and I think that is far more educational to me that a convention would be. I went to Cinigear last year and left feeling numb, overwhelmed with products and technical information. Your approach is through a place of feeling, a place I can understand. The world expects certain things from us, you continue to inspire the idea of going against the grain. You get such good feedback fro your audience, I think you’re doing the right thing by being Brooke Shaden and not what you might have been told you were supposed to be.

    1. David thank you, your words mean so much to me. You are always so encouraging and I take inspiration from you – thank you.

  13. One more excellent work. Congratulations Brooke. And you’re absolutely right when you say “I say what I think and I say it from the heart. I don’t mind if people agree or disagree and I am simply grateful that anyone thinks anything at all!” I think the same. And as always, is a pleasure to read your post and make me fell so good …

  14. When I was younger, I was incredibly weird and definitely lived in my own little universe. Going to school with a lot of materialistic kids who saw individuality as a sin against nature was tough, and over the years the creativity and uniqueness in me was overpowered by the desire to fit in. I think that being your own person is so crucial in this world, especially after having lost a large part of myself to unimportant people and circumstances. I’m still working on making a world for myself and exploring those creative parts of me that have been sitting in the shadows for so long. Your words, and really just the person that you are, is so inspirational. You’re a truly genuine person and that has become something of a rarity. I love these posts – I feel like they help me stay on track with forging my own path in this world

    1. Libby, you sound like someone I want to know! I know you will make that world for yourself, and it will be glorious!

  15. I think being lost in your own world sounds so wonderful! I am often like that too but it isn’t fairy tales or stories that occupy my mind, it is scattered thoughts about life and feelings and relations and images of the surroundings I am in. Always looking for something to photograph… people sometimes asks me “what are you looking at!?” My response is always “I am just looking” which must sound a bit weird haha :).

    However I am very much ruled by my life as a full time single mom… so I can’t be lost in my own world all that often.

    What also makes me a bit weird is that I do 10 things at the same time, I go wherever my thoughts lead me… for example I put laundry in the washing machine and when I am half way done I rush to the kitchen and write something down. Cupboards are open and things are in a mess. This applies to everything that I do, at work and so on ;)….

    Last but not least, I absolutely love the perspective of the image above, lovely!

    1. I agree Hanna! I love being in my own world…it is unique and brilliant because it’s mine, and same goes for anyone else creating their own unique space.

  16. Walking around the convention in a bit of a daze… yep, I get that as that would be me πŸ˜‰ Brooke, you are wonderful and a breath of fresh air… Wish I could have been there.

    I spend a lot of time on my own. I am content in my own company. I am apparently one of the few people that has learnt to be happy on my own. There is a long story behind that, but my art and being able to express my emotions through my images is what has healed me and help me on my journey of self… I love being in my word and creating. I retreat into it more and more. But I also realise it is not good to always be on my own. I do need to reach out. I struggle with that sometimes, but I have found that I am able to do so through my art… I have started to include a friend sometimes on shoots. Often just for company as I usually do a shoot after a hike or walk on the beach. My friends love it and have started pitching in and helping out on shoots. Some have now also modeled and collaborated on shoots. This was a huge dream for me this year and I have already managed to achieve πŸ™‚ Although I value my solo shoots and would not ever give them up completely, I have started to learn to enjoy the company and collaboration with others. I hope to do much more in 2014 and have already reached out to fellow photographers in the area to meet and collaborate.

    1. I think it is great that you are okay being by yourself. I bet that means you have a wild imagination πŸ™‚

  17. It was also my first time at a convention and I felt a little out of place too. While I’m not strictly a fine art photographer, I’m certainly not mainstream. I shoot births and do editorial sessions for families in their homes. I love how your lecture reminded me that although I do editing, pricing, website, settings, camera gear, etc, etc differently from anyone else, it’s relevant and good because it’s mine and it works for me! It was so good to get that validation. And, although I am still tasting baby powder, I feel very inspired by you to take my portraits and create something a little outside my comfort zone. Thank you!

    1. Very interesting line of photography! I’d love to see that. I was about to apologize for the baby powder…but…I’m bad! So glad that you liked it! Thank you sooooo much for being there!

  18. We absolutely loved you! I attended the conference with my mom. We flew in from Houston, TX. Like you, it was my first convention. You see, I am very young… I am eighteen. Throughout the three days we were there everyone thought my mom was the photographer. The expo was very overwhelming for me because I have a very small business and I felt overhwhelmed by all of the high tech equipment and products. You see, I am a natural light photographer and I simply take my subjects out at an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset and simply use the sun as my light. Your talk TRULY touched our hearts because it came straight from your heart. We loved your uniqueness and your sense of humor. Personally, it really helped me to hear you say that you stay true to who you are because I sometimes struggle with my self confidence.
    Thank you for sharing your heart and honesty with us. You truly inspired me and I learned a lot from you.

    1. Aww Kate thank you endlessly! I am so glad you were able to come and you know what – it is so awesome to be different, because those who are different now set the standards for the future. xoxoxo

  19. “Controversial speaker” — You? I just don’t see it. I am in complete awe of the confidence you have in yourself, and the beauty that radiates from you through your art and always-inspirational words.. It’s crazy to think of all the people you’ve inspired in such a tremendous and personal way…
    I’ve long lived with a fear of other human beings, and what they think or may possibly think of me, and how I am perceived in their eyes — Something that is deeply rooted in me, and something I am still in the process of forcing myself to overcome.
    Along with the obvious love of your artwork, I find such admiration in the way you are able to put your personal thoughts into words..
    I’d love to say more, as my head is swimming with inspiration, but the words aren’t coming to me. I can only hope that one day our paths cross, if even for a moment…. Keep up the beautiful work. <3

    1. Thank you so much Sara! I didn’t see it either πŸ˜› I understand that fear quite well, and I know you will work your way past it – if I can help in any way…
      Thank you for being so kind xoxo

  20. Hello Brooke. I wasn’t able to see your program because of my schedule but please know that your program was the only one I really wanted to see at Imaging.
    I have a friend who has been complaining to me for the past year that he isn’t creative and he doesn’t have the gift of creating art. He almost seemed to become very depressed about it. I demanded that he attend your program and he did. He came out of your program truly inspired. He’s so happy he attended. He said that he had plenty of new ideas. I wish you could’ve seen the smile on his face when he told me thanks for making him attend your class.
    I’m sure you have plenty of posts before me saying the same thing… Please forget about the few negative comments you hear because you touch and inspire thousands of people everyday through your art and your teachings. That includes me. Your art makes people say “Wow” and people leave your programs feeling better about themselves and have more confidence to create work themselves. I wish you the best and look forward to seeing your new creations. Thanks for always sharing….

    1. Hi Karen! Ohh so sorry to have missed you! I am so glad that your friend liked it πŸ™‚ That makes my heart happy! And no worries about negative comments – truly. They don’t bother me one bit, and I actually don’t think that what was said was negative. Live and learn and grow, and so even a negative comment can be learned from in some way πŸ™‚

  21. Absolutely love this image Brooke! And you are exactly the kind of person we need more of in the photography industry! Always honest, authentic and sincere, without gimmicks and cheesy sales pitches, just simple sharing of yourself and your art… I love every person’s strangeness, it’s what makes the world interesting! I was lucky to be raised in an environment that was conducive to individual thinking and have never been a fan of the mass produced ideologies or conventions.
    Thank you Brooke, you are one of a kind, and we appreciate you for it!

  22. I absolutely adore the way your mind thinks. if it was me i would have taken it in a negative manner and i would have got really upset.I am and has been very worried about what others will think . But you are one of my true inspiration to be what you are in life. . You’s blog posts have been pushing me to get out of my shell and be what i want to be. Being an entire stranger and still you can manage to make an immense change in my life just through internet shows your passion and the human being you are. you are a true inspiration and a great teacher. Thanks a lot Brooke for always inspiring and helping me push my limits. LOVE

  23. I usually find myself lost in my own little world. So much so that my mother is always telling me to wake up, to snap out of it and pay attention to my surroundings. When I started college I began a spiritual journey. I immersed myself in the “new age” world. My mind went to so many places. It went places that for some people, only hallucinogens could take them. I lived in that world for years until I got married. Then I sort of fell into the fine art photography world …when you gave your cL workshop… my life changed. Now, again, I’m in a world where my family and friends see me as a strange little bug! A lot of it they cannot understand.

    I believe that these days more and more people are coming out and showing others their strangeness. People want to be themselves and show who they are!

  24. Brooke, In your life you have been given a great gift — maybe from your parents, maybe from somewhere else — that allows you to totally accept yourself in all your brilliant and quirky uniqueness. I am in total awe of how you back yourself up and support yourself in situations where your values and being may be so foreign to others. But what I also really love is how you pass this attitude and approach on to to others and model it for us — so that we in turn, no matter what messages we have internalized, are encouraged to go forth, proud of our particular talents and way of being in the world. You. Brooke, are a gift to us all!

  25. You are such an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your passions. Your art. Your love for what you do. I identify with you SO MUCH and am so grateful for artists like you, who truly LOVE what you do. And convey it in such an HONEST way. Thank you for doing what you do and doing it the way you see it. You – and your work – are beautiful. Blessings to you!

  26. I kinda think for me, in most large spaces and places…I actually start to retreat and hide a bit LOL πŸ™‚ I will get overly-sensory-stimulated and find myself drowning in an ocean of voices and noise. However, I still get out – I still head outward outside of the zone…and keep pushing to where i’m supposed to be. Weird, awkward and all…experiencing life in all its glory…is pretty awesome. πŸ™‚

  27. Brooke you spoke from your heart with passion & sincerity. I do believe you touched many people in that audience. You do inspire. There were many folks excited to have the opportunity to be there. I saw it in their eye & heard it in their voices when I would confirm that they were at the right room.

    The free flow of the process was fun to watch. It was obvious you had a vision in mind, and allowed it to come to it’s own fruition as the sticks enclosed & the powder floated in the air.

    Thanks for helping me to push the door of my creativity cabinet open a bit more- to better hear it’s voice.

  28. yes i am so lost…but it was loosing myself that finally allowed me to find the real me. I no longer care what the world thinks. Happiness is now mine.

  29. It made me laugh that my roommate at AD thought that it was bizarre that I would bring a juicer to AD. (That is SO tame!) You see, my inner weirdness has been squelched for far too long. My husband and I have felt for a long time that we don’t really belong anywhere, stuck between who we feel like we “should” be for our family and who dances inside. I often daydream as well and am never surprised that I am not paying attention.

    Although I often feel like your work is a little dark for me, I love the passion, the stories and the weirdness of being you. I follow your blog precisely because you are indeed the master of your own tales, and because you inspire me as well.

    Thanks for being the huggy, passionate, sharing and giving person that you are. I promise you’ll get your own homemade juice next time I see you. And I’m working on the wall of water photo too. πŸ™‚

  30. Brooke, thank you! I am watching your Creative Live workshop and looked at your website and blog. I am blown away! But most of all, thank you for the “self-portrait challenge”. I’ve always been too afraid to try one. But, after seeing you in action and hearing you speak about it, I am binding my fear and going for it. You’ve inspired me and I think I will enjoy working on it. I’ve always felt restricted in so many areas of my life… restricted to be the real me. So I will use that as a platform for my self-portrait and will send it to you when I’m finished. My talent is not on your level, but my heart will be there and hopefully it will show in the finished portrait. God bless!

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