Thoughts on Creating Fourth Wall

Thoughts on Creating Fourth Wall

I waited 14 months to share my “Fourth Wall” series with you, and longer if you count the time conceiving of it. It was difficult for me. Up until this point in my career I have released every image I’ve created instantly. “Instantly” isn’t the right word, but I never had anything holding me back. I would wait a day or two, or maybe a week, and then share what I had made. It felt natural to create and share because that is the reward system that social media has put in place. I create something and then I share it, naturally, for feedback. The more positive the feedback, the more we want to share, and more frequently.

Therefore it was a step in a totally new direction for me to create without sharing. And it felt amazing. There were images I wasn’t so sure of and was happy to keep them to myself, and other images that proved to be a true lesson in self-control.

May I interject here and say that I am proud of the work I created. I wish more people would come out and say that they are proud of themselves. We should love the work we do. We should be proud of the work we do. If we aren’t, how can we expect anyone else to be? During all of 2016 when I was creating Fourth Wall, I wanted to share because I was proud of what I was doing and you are my community. It felt great though to let that part of me slip away. To acknowledge my happiness within the work I was doing and to let that be enough.

I found that the longer I waited the more I could go back and tweak them – and sometimes overhaul them. I would re-shoot an image if I knew I could do better, and time – months – gave me that gift of understanding. I started to realize the layers that I wanted to go into each piece and I was able to digest that and then create it. Time is such an arbitrary thing. We push and press ourselves into the future so quickly that we forget to see the present. We set deadlines for ourselves that mean nothing in the grand scheme of life and if we don’t meet them, we believe we have failed. It is a terrible thing that we do to our creativity when we put a timestamp on it. Letting these images breath was like giving them life.

It took me a whole year of creating to fully understand why I wanted to create this series. There were three main reasons.

One was for a new creative direction. I had never built anything before and had always failed when trying, and I needed to know that I could do it.

Another was to go in a different business direction to attract a New York City gallery.

And the third was powered by my love of theme and a desire to portray ideas that we keep hidden yet all connect with.

Those three motivations made for a great way to actually get me to create. I have had a photo business for seven years now, and this is the first time where I have followed through in creating a series that I would package and sell as such. It was a really interesting direction to go in and one that I enjoyed immensely.

One of the most common comments I got on the series was “Why didn’t you just Photoshop it?”. For the key image, I did. It was a financial necessity for me. However, the rest were done in camera as much as possible. There was certainly still post processing on all of them, but not to the extent I had done in my previous work. The reason is simple. I wanted to be there, in that space, spending time with the idea as much as the material that created the idea. I wanted to spend hours upon hours gluing yarn to the floor. I wanted to feel what it felt like to really be trapped in a flooded room. It was important to me to be there.

That made the series ephemeral as well. The sets I was creating were temporary and would not be duplicated. Each image has a timeless quality to it that I associate with building something in the space, physically.

The big reason why I laid off of Photoshop and did the series at all is: CHANGE.

It is so easy to forget that change is part of the human experience. What we will all do, inevitably, is change or perish. I would rather change willingly instead of by surprise. I want to be in control of my creativity, my self. I want to explore my depths, knowing that they are infinitely long and I will never reach the bottom. I want to go as deep as I can while I still breathe on this Earth.

Is that not the true soul of an artist? To desire to work. To never be finished. To seek to know oneself intimately so that we may create meaningfully? That is my why. Do you echo that?

At the end of the creating process, and while I was preparing for the gallery debut, I decided to submit to some awards. I am not the type that does this usually but I wanted to prove to myself that I was proud of the work I did, so I submitted. To my astonishment the series has placed in a couple of those awards so far. It recently got 2nd place in the International Photographer of the Year awards for Fine Art: Conceptual. It got 1st place at the ND Awards for Fine Art Series and won the grand prize in those awards as well.

I don’t share that to brag. If you know me you know I’d rather fall into a flaming pit of hot lava (a totally normal scenario) than believe that what I do is “better” or “more deserving” than another persons. I tell you this so that you believe in yourself. Learn from my journey. Belief in yourself shouldn’t be waited for. It is here for the taking no matter if you’ve never won an award. It is here if you feel so far behind everyone else. It is here if you feel that you’ll never create your best work.

I called my mom a few days ago to tell her that the series had placed in these awards, and she said something to me that I had been thinking: If only I had known earlier. She said that if only I had known in high school that I would succeed in something.

She said it so lovingly, though it might sound weird to you. I grew up loving to write and, I felt, being fairly good at it. But when it came to things that all the other kids my age were doing, I just couldn’t compete no matter how hard I tried. And trust me, I tried harder than everyone I knew. My grades were below average, I consistently made the “B” soccer team, and I had a hard time with most new things I tried. Nothing ever came easily. I am so glad for that. It taught me that talent or not, we can build our dreams if we choose to work at them. It might take countless tries and a lot of years and heart-tugging failures. It might mean that we have to continuously re-define what is important and how we will see a desire through. Eventually though, we make it. “It” may not be the place you always thought it would be. “It”, that elusive “successful place” that we all so desire, is nothing more than a mindset.

It is taking pride in what we do. It is not the awards we win or the circus that is social media telling us that we should love what we do. It is a genuine and irreplaceable bliss that we feel so fully when we engage in something that shares our soul with the world. What a beautiful “it” to find.

There were many images that I ended up not using in the final series. Here are a couple of them that I never quite finished, but simply knew that they didn’t belong. In the past I never had to curate my work. I simply released it and put it in galleries when asked and it was simple. But for this series I wanted to be absolutely certain that the images in the show truly reflected my intention in every aspect – visually, conceptually, and how it was created as well. I debated with these images extensively. The cobweb photo was my husband’s favorite. But I knew instinctively that it wouldn’t make the cut. We simply wrestled too long together.

Other images that I created but didn’t make it in…

I wanted one to look like a girl was frozen underwater. This is a picture I have wanted to create for a very long time. I bought a giant piece of plexiglass and cracked it, and then put my model underneath. It was difficult to stop getting glare while having enough light, and in the end it wasn’t the right time.

For another I put hundreds of pounds of dirt on the floor and planted flours. I thought it was going to be great. It turned out that I couldn’t quite get enough flowers in there to look vibrant enough and the dirt looked too much like mulch. By the time I had realized my errors the passion for the image was gone and I never reshot it.

One of the most difficult things about scrapping an image is the loss of money and time. It might sound arbitrary, but I don’t have a lot of money to spend on creative endeavors. In fact, I have spent the first many years of my career creating with no budget. It was hard to let something go that cost me so much, but in the end it wouldn’t have been true to my purpose if I had kept them in.

I have published over 700 pictures in the eight years I have been shooting. These nine images rank above my favorite for so many reasons, not least of which being the effort and the love in each one. I hope you enjoy this behind the scenes look at creating some of the images from the series. It was a wild and beautiful ride.

Thank you for your support and encouragement, and for your ever evolving kindness that gives me the courage to create something new despite previously earned acceptance. It is a freeing thing, to be able to create anew without fear of rejection. Though it will come, and does, there is solidarity in our community.

If you are interested in obtaining a print from this collection, please email the JoAnne Artman Gallery for details.

42×42 inches, Edition of 2
8×8 inches, Edition of 3

Printed on Elegance Velvet Fine Art Paper, archival certified, signed with certificate of authenticity.

24 thoughts on “Thoughts on Creating Fourth Wall

  1. So lovely! Thank you for sharing the photos that didn’t make it, too.

    Our society is full of conflicting messages, especially for women: be pretty, but not too pretty; be smart, but not too smart; be successful, but not too successful. I think that mentality leaves a lot of us feeling like it isn’t okay to be proud of our accomplishments, but that’s silly. Thank you, also, for being vulnerable and proverbially standing up to say you’re proud of your creation!

    1. Oh Natasha, thank you so much for this comment for so many reasons. Yes, we must be proud! It is important that we love what we do – is that not the dream? I can’t say I always creating something I’m happy with, but that is the journey and beauty of it. You are so lovely.

  2. Oh Brooke! This post makes me smile so much and be so proud of you.

    Yes change is very difficult, and especially when you have an “audience”, people who know you for a certain type of pictures. But you took the risk, to try something different. And at the end, like everything we create it’s different but it’s still you. No matter what you do, if you do it with your heart, it will still be you.

    <3 <3 <3

    1. Delphine, I love you. That is so true – what we do with our hearts is truly who we are. A beautiful statement. I miss you and hope to see you soon!

  3. This is amazing, Brooke!
    The whole series turned out beautifully and you should be proud of what you have built with your own two hands.
    Thank you also for showing us some of the behind the scenes photos of the ones that didn’t make the cut. When we set out to create something we never really know if it is going to work or not, and when it doesn’t work, we can sometimes feel like we have failed. It’s nice to be reminded that sometimes even the people we’d call our heroes have photos that do not work out, but they plug away anyway to success.

    1. Hi Heather! Thank you for your kindness, it means so much to me! I love the not knowing process in creating, though it is annoying at the time, it is so illuminating. XOXO!

  4. Wow I’m so happy I came across this post. I’m currently a senior in high school feeling the same intense passion and drive for the artwork that I do & have yet to do. I agree with you completely on the subject of taking your time to create meaningful pieces without a set deadline to pressure the creative process. Around summer of 2016, I started a 365 day project whete I posted a work of art a day. However, when school started I was having less time to create which hindered the quality of work. I can see & feel the focus, concentration, love, & time you put into your pieces. It inspires me to continue to do the same, to never give up on a vision. To also have a conceptual idea for the point you want to get across in each piece, and to not be afraid to feel fulfilled at the final piece without needing only external validation. Thank you.

    1. I am so happy to hear from you! How inspiring that you are wanting to push past your constraints and create. I can’t wait to see where life takes you! Keep me posted!

  5. It is really a incredible series, and the write up has been just as good!
    So what’s next? Maybe a series to go in a high end gallery in Paris??? I got a big show in New York, so this seems like the next logical step. 😀
    It has been truly great reading all of the behind the scenes stuff.
    Can’t wait for your book to come out, I am looking forward to that. 🙂

    1. Aww thank you!! I’ve so enjoyed creating/releasing this series. As for what is next – more creativity! I certainly hope 🙂

  6. Gracias por permitirnos ver el -detras de- ha sido una experiencia maravillosa apreciar el trabajo que lleva realizar tu obra.
    Exito y salud
    México/España =)

  7. Brooke, this series is absolutely the coolest I have ever seen! I mean that in that we got to see how it came together, how you envisioned it and the results, as well as, the fails. On top[ of that, we get a glimpse of your emotional journey, to an extent, through the process. I admire you so much for going after your dream, for putting your all into one shot!
    You inspire me!

  8. Brooke: your visual writing offers such a fierce impact on the emotions. With female characters that are incredibly alive, even when distorted, they brilliantly capture one’s deepest desires and fears. Not only that, they appear to represent a reality that we hide, especially behind our social construct. I applaud how you explore the complexity of being human, and our evolvement in life’s odyssey. More importantly, when you share your gifts, and inspire each one of us, you create your best work. Namaste!

  9. Incredible series Brooke. Thank you for waiting! I am sure it was periodically painful not to share your progress. Seeing it all together allows us to have such a fuller experience – the pieces as a collection, the images of pouring wax and sand, gluing all that yarn!

    It is fascinating to consider how your physical connection to creating the space effects the final image.

    I love your quote “Is that not the true soul of an artist? To desire to work. To never be finished. To seek to know oneself intimately so that we may create meaningfully? That is my why.” It’s so brave.

  10. Brooke I can’t tell you how much the behind the scenes video means to me. I knew that these took a tremendous of amount of effort and care but seeing you in the process of bringing an idea to fruition is just so inspiring and moving. My nearly 8yo (going on 40) daughter just watched it with me and she was blown away. I love her seeing someone putting forth so much effort to make what they envision. She understood that it was “worth it”. Thank you for sharing this so I can share it with her <3 And she wants me to ask you, "How in the world you all get the wax out of the model's hair?" 🙂

  11. I have recently discovered your interesting work, and this is an imaginative photographic series about the concept of fourth wall.
    The term arises from a reflection on the nature of the theatrical performance. On the stage there are three real walls, and a fictitious fourth (invisible but symbolic, separating the actors from the spectators) Realist theater was built on this pact: actors and public live in parallel universes that never interact. Until the end of the performance.
    Every artistic manifestation, not only theater, has its “fourth wall”: it is a symbolic border that separates the creator from the receiver of a work (reader, film viewer, voyeur of images …) to create a realistic verosimilitude effect. It works as a preset, as a filter that, when it breaks, shows up that we do not see a fragment of reality but a symbolic fiction, a photoshoped reality.
    I think your “fourth wall”, Brooke, is very special: it is actually a sixth wall (four sides, the floor and the invisible wall from above where you take your aerial shot) Because the space you have reconstructed is not that of the theatrical scene, but that of a box. Your sixth wall is the equivalent of the fourth wall of the theatrical performance.
    At bottom, any reflection on the fourth (or fifth or sixth) wall is a reflection on the foundations of art: that symbolic border that separates reality from aesthetic representation. Realistic art is built on an illusion: that of the fourth wall.
    But I think that, paradoxically, breaking the fourth wall does not necessarily mean destroying the artistic “illusion”, but opening it to consciousness. This is what Velazquez did when he included himself painting the picture of Las Meninas (like a behind the scene) The reflection on the artistic act is itself a form of knowledge. Because consciousness is always self-consciousness.
    With the appearance of the human brain, Life broke its fourth wall and became self-conscious. What is this strange game of birth and death? The human animal that interrogates itself is an animal that is distressed. Consciousness is also consciousness of death. One day we will all die. We are made of too much shade (broken shade?) and of an incurable form of suffering. We are a strange mixture of caresses and wounds, orgasms and agonies.
    The lucidity, conscience, self-knowledge is not only a form of wisdom, it is also a form of tragedy. The ancient Greeks invented philosophy, but also theater. For them, the lucidity of knowledge was as important as the wisdom of defeat, of failure, of the suffering they portrayed in their theatrical tragedies. Tragedies are always represented accompanied by a final comedy. It was his way of breaking the fourth wall. Crying is a metaphomorphosis of laughter, laughter is a metamorphosis of crying. Because life is much more terrible and fascinating than we never imagined: life is paradise, hell is life.
    Perhaps there is no deep knowledge about existence, a lucid look on the world that does not start from our own contradictions. And that is why we need to live every moment with the intensity, lucidity, pain, happiness, pleasure, creativity, anguish, passion of who knows that might be living the last day of eternity.

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