A year ago I received an email asking if I would photograph someone as a gift – a single portrait of art that would capture her essence. A tall order, but one that I love attempting. I accepted, and then, I promptly did not do it. I was nervous to fail. I was nervous to meet everyone. In general, I was just being my usual scared self, when that version of me decides to emerge.
How serendipitous that turned out to be, for it is that understanding of darkness and seeing the light at the end that ties me so well to my new friend Jenny, who I had the privilege of photographing in April. When we met, and we sat down together at lunch and I got to hear her stories, I felt so connected in a way that I’m not sure I can describe – it was a completely silent recognition of myself in the way she lives her life…and while I cannot lay even an inch’s claim to how amazing she is, I can identify with the struggles we both go through.
It was only late in the process of going to photograph Jenny that I learned of what a huge presence she is in the literary world. As a New York Times #1 bestselling author and popular blogger (like…really, really popular), I felt like I was going to meet a celebrity. And after meeting her, I have that feeling even more so. Not because of her demeanor, but because of her humble way of almost rejecting the spotlight while refusing to be anything but herself.
When the shoot rolled around I felt so comfortable with everyone. I toured her house and marveled at the treasures they’ve collected over the years, and then shyly asked if we could tear down a particular birdcage that I had fallen in love with. When we got to the location, I asked if she could jump up into a tree. The answer was ‘no’, but not for lack of trying, as the tree was taller than she was. So her amazing husband lifted her up into it, and we got to shooting.
I explained the concept as best I could and, after pinning fabric all around her (I’m not sure anyone understood what I was doing), we moved the fabric about to create motion as I told her how to pose, and I got the shot quickly and swiftly. I lit some smoke bombs to photograph with the bird cage, capturing many different angles just to be sure it would fit together, and afterward, I said, as I always do: I’m not sure if that worked, but I’m going to try my best. And I meant it.
I got home and I did try my best, putting pieces together. And only when I felt as though the image conveyed the strong and beautiful woman that she is did I send it along. I was heart-pounding nervous for a response, and cried when she said she liked it. You can read her blog post about it here: Jenny the amazing Bloggess.
Tom Newforge - Very cool. I am totally perplexed on how you pulled off the cage though. Was she actually in a giant cage?
brookeshaden - If you head over to Jenny’s blog post about it, she shows BTS pics. Unfortunately, no giant bird cage was obtained in the making of this picture. That has, thus far, been reserved for my dreams.
Margherita Introna - More blue <3 I just read Jenny’s blog post about this image and you created a magical and wonderful interpretation of her. Beautiful and whimsical <3
brookeshaden - Thank you Margherita! You are so kind!
Mary Angelini - It is a gorgeous image Brooke – I am totally in love with the color and concept!! Another home run – I seriously have no idea why you doubt yourself, you are incredibly creative and talented!! Absolutely brilliant!!
brookeshaden - To doubt oneself is to continually push further, never knowing if the next creation will work or not for the sake of progression…or at least that’s what I tell myself 🙂 Mary, you are awesome and I am so thankful for your encouragement.
Jenny, the bloggess - You are magic, my friend.
brookeshaden - Right back at you 🙂 I can’t wait until our next romp in the swamp!
Tom Newforge - Checked it out. Still has me wondering how you were able to layer her in the cage. I know how I would attempt it, (with my limited Ps skills) and it would take some doing. I love the effect of the cage though. Looks like tilt shift. So cool. Ok sorry bout the double post. Gotta get ready to go shoot with Kory and Marisa! I’m so psyched.
Jen Kiaba - Oh Brooke what a wonderful image! I so admire how you connect so deeply with the people that you photograph, and how your love for them comes through in your images.
And honestly the fact that you were nervous about Jenny liking the photo makes me feel so much better (is that weird?). Knowing that you have those moments of doubt and can make breakthroughs inspires me so much more. Thank you for sharing this story and the image!
lovelyn - Beautiful image, Brooke. You never cease to amaze me. You captured the essence of The Bloggess perfectly.
Libertad Leal - The Bloggess is the boss and this photo is amazing! You did a wonderful job!
Paulo Alexandre Carvalho - What is this my god! This picture is something divine. Cannot take my eyes from the picture. Gorgeous! Always in your best Brooke. 😉 **
Diana - Beautiful! It is amazing to see what magic can happen when we fight through our fears (myself included). Great work!
kstewand4cats - Really beautiful. Love the inspiration of the bird cage! I follow her blog and it suits her. Surprised there was no taxidermy involved. 😉
If you’re reading this I’m probably alive. | The Bloggess - […] Brooke Shaden. Love her. […]
Sandra - I would never claim to know Jenny, only what I read from her blog , book and Tweets, but I think you captured her perfectly. Her strength, beauty, shyness, humor, even a hint at her demons are all here. It’s a stunning portrait and if I could overcome my shyness enough and lived near you I’d want you to create something like that for me.
M and A's Mama - Simply breathtaking!
Dancer - I have been admiring your work for over a year now. As well as reading The Blogess.
Stunning when two worlds collide.
Amber Rainey - I think you did a fantastic and amazing job. She is gorgeous and the photograph is just incredible!
Rocio Mirelis - Beautiful!