What’s Near and Dear

What’s Near and Dear

So far this year has been one of change in most of the best ways possible. Every change is scary yet so often works out for the best. I’m hoping to hire my first employee this year, which is terrifying yet so very necessary. I am branching out and trying new things, like making a documentary and writing a novel. I am re-branding just a bit, still creating photos constantly but also becoming increasingly interested in motivation and inspiration.

All of these things make me bubble with excitement. But then there is one thing that weighs heavily on my mind, and that is a change that I’m quite sad about. I can see the silver lining, and I’ll be posting about why later this year, but for now, I want to speak about the darker side.

My very first convention that I ever spoke at was After Dark. I was invited into the family with open arms and was allowed to be completely myself, no matter what. Ever since then I’ve been an advocate of what they do there, and am proud to say that I have become a part of that process and team. I feel so loved when I attend. I try to love on as many people as possible. It is one big lovely love fest.

But at the end of March, the last After Dark will take place. It is like seeing a part of my heart wash away, but at the same time, I know that things must change. If it weren’t for the extreme kindness of the family of After Dark, especially Dave Junion, I might not have found my voice. I knew that I had something to say, but I didn’t know where to say it. AD has become my home away from home, and I will miss it terribly.

I think that we all have something like that in our lives, be it a person or a place or a thing…something that makes us feel accepted, or welcomed, or just like we can be ourselves. That is After Dark to me, and even though it won’t live on past this final convention, I will take what I have gained from it and apply it to everything that I do. I will move forward with a passionate intensity that makes me feel good about being myself. I will spread the love that I learned there to everyone in my path. And I will make sure that AD doesn’t ever fully go away, as I know so many people will do, because we will take what we learned and allow that to guide us in the future.

I sincerely hope that you’ll join me for this last After Dark. I will be giving it my all when I’m there. I’m not going to be fancy. I’m not going to do backflips and tricks (except that one levitation class…). I’m just going to teach from my soul and give all that I can.


Dave said that I could give away a free pass to After Dark running from March 30-April 2 in St. Louis, MO. If you would like to join us, please leave a comment with one paragraph about how you think that this experience will help your future. We’ll be picking one winner to join us!

Deadline is February 16th at 11PM PST.

Do you have something in your life like this? Something that makes you feel like you are okay to be yourself? A person, place, thing? Please do share, I love knowing what is near and dear to your heart.


67 thoughts on “What’s Near and Dear

  1. Wow this is a topic that inspired a really deep, and kind of painful, response in me. Community is something that I feel likeI have been searching for during the past ten years. I grew up in a destructive and extremist religious group, and finally had the courage to leave when I came of age. In many ways it feels like I am an immigrant to a country where there are languages and ideas that I am still trying to understand, while sometimes still pining for a few good memories of a home I will never return to.
    Photography, and meeting other misfit artists, has been how I have been able to assimilate myself into this new world. Being able to attend something like After Dark, where you are encouraged to explore your voice and show up with all of you would be such an amazing experience and just what I hope to continue to seek in my life!

    1. Jen, I think that community is something that many of us search for and it is brilliant to find it. I hope that AD is a fit for you and that our paths cross in the future! Your artwork is downright inspiring.

  2. Hi Brooke,

    I have a weird situation in which I feel completely myself, free and aloof, away from my physical pain, and that is in a snow storm, when the everyone is hiding away due to numbing cold or trying to find shelter,

    I like to stand in the middle of it and face it, bear it. Nobody can understand how beautiful and surreal it is, there is something about standing in the middle of the mayhem and to stare right back at it. Did I mentioned I get crippled from arthritis pain…:)


    1. Dom, this might sound strange, but how you described yourself in a snow storm sounds like a character that I would love to photograph. With your permission I may do an image inspired by you some day.

    2. Hi Brooke,

      I am sorry for responding this late, you mentioned that you wanted to shoot my idea, which I think is very kind of you and I would love to see your interpretation of it. Keep up the good work.



  3. Moving away from my entire family 7 years ago I never thought I’d find that place again. Especially since moving I was thrown into a continual state of changing, evolving, emerging. My husband has always been that place for me, where I can show him my dark and be held and seen by him. But he works offshore so I am alone with my two kids a lot of the year, so no matter how held I was with him, it wasn’t enough for those times he was away.
    After finding my true self and honoring the person I am, the people I have to hold me emerged from the dark. A wonderful midwife, te one who helped me know I was strong enough to birth my second daughter at home, she turned out to be one of my dearest friends. She doesn’t judge me and loves me in my weak times as well as my strong times.
    A friend I had met through etsy, when I purchased a necklace from her, over four years ago, she is now one of those that encourages me and lifts me up.
    And a childhood friend that I lost touch with when she moved away in the 5th grade. We reconnected through Facebook while pregnant with our first child at the same time. We talk almost every day on the phone.
    So I may be away from apart everyone I ever knew, but I am held deeply by the friends turned family now.

    Oh this sounds so lovely. And I know one day I will come to one of your speaking engagements or workshops. Even if it’s not this one. But I would be truly honored to be chosen. I am re dedicating myself to my craft this year and have more inspiration and passion this year for it than I have in the past 5/6 years.
    Thank you Brooke for being one of those continual beams of bright light in my life.

    1. Katelyn, thank you so much for sharing your story. Isn’t it amazing the people we connect with when we least expect it? I would very much love to meet you. I think you are a great person and it would be nice to spend even just a little bit of time around you!

  4. Every time I listen to you, read your blog posts, see one of your amazing creations, I just can’t help but feel anxious and eager to create, to imagine, it would mean the world to me to attend AD, however I’ll leave the opportunity to someone who can actually take it, i’m overseas and can’t afford this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    There is a place whre I feel like being myself is ok (even though some people think otherwise) and it is among my closest friends, each of us unique in our very weird way but full of love and support for each other’s dreams and goals.

    1. Daniel thank you so much for writing. I’ll be hosting another contest like this for a retreat in London if you would want to attend there 🙂

  5. Change. Inspiration. Moving forward in my dreams – all of these things are what my soul yearns for, thrives on.
    Today, like yesterday, I gaze out of the tall windows in my kitchen and watch the billowing white clouds move lazily across the blue sky and eventually, out of sight. My hands are dry and cracked. I sigh. They hurt. I put my gloves back on and continue washing dishes. The suds look like the clouds, slowly fading away. My mind drifts away with the clouds, the suds, to somewhere magical. A deep green forest I have never seen, but have visited a hundred times. A schooner at sea. A haunted manor I have yet to explore.
    A voice interrupts my visions, there is a tug on my shirt. “Hungry” a little voice says. I will dream later I tell myself as life beckons me back.

    I am a 33-year-old mother of 5 and photographer when life permits. It would be a dream come true to be chosen to attend After Dark. The thought of being surrounded by creative individuals and dreamers makes my heart swell and my soul glow.

    1. Tiffany, that is so beautiful and heartbreaking. I can tell you have a big imagination and I hope that we can help let it explode <3

  6. I wish I could apply, but I know it’s almost impossible for me to be accepted, and even if by some chance I was, I really don’t think I’d be allowed to travel on my own all the way to the States.

    I know how Dominic feels (comment above), I feel that way when I’m sitting outdoors and listening to music. Music plays a huge part in my life, and when it’s really windy outside, that’s when I feel amazing. I feel like I can do anything. I can’t even describe the feeling. I try to sit outside as much as possible just so I can feel it. It’s also amazing for brainstorming and getting inspired. It makes me sad that winter’s almost over, because the heat gets unbearable here.

    I know this is going to sound super cheesy, and I apologize for that, but I feel like your blog posts are something that I’ve come to rely on. You inspire me and make me feel better. You make me feel accepted, and like I can be myself.
    Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong place, and this country and society are suffocating me. I want so much more than this, and I dream of escaping some day. But this, what you’ve created here, it feels like a community I belong to, and that is an amazing feeling. So thank you for that <3

    1. Oh Amani I know how you feel, wanting to be outside and inspired. I am so glad we get to see each other in March. You have no idea how much your words lift me up. You read this blog and I am so thankful, because simply by being here you make me feel like I am okay to write the things I do. Thank you so much.

  7. This is in a way a bit intimidating…only because I was never one to be up front and center in anything. I knew I had ideas and thoughts and an imagination but was afraid to unleash it, for fear of not fitting in. Then one day I came across a Flickr profile where the photographer totally wowed me and inspired me to create regardless of what anyone thought. Her work was captivating and out of the box and Brilliant. It pushed me to learn…to teach myself to create pieces that were important to me . It took me a while to share my work with the world but I got there and along the way came many more amazing photographers who inspired me and allowed me to dream. I am so very thankful for them and most of all you, Brooke. Since early 2009 I’ve followed your journey and cannot be more grateful for having stumbled across your work. When I’m not feeling my best, I know I have a group of people to go to and find strength in ART!

    1. This put me to tears. Sandra, you have been a constant force of positivity in my life since we met and I am so grateful for you.

  8. Wow, the last After Dark!? I was going to put it in my business plan for 2015 to attend, so I’m a little lost. I need to be there as I’m just finding my voice, my direction, my momentum and feel that being around you, Brooke Shaden, and the other mentors could really help me take my business to the next level. A “free pass” could really help me out financially, obviously, but it would be so great to be around others who are as inspired as me at this point of time. Brooke, to meet you would be amazing. You have helped me to find my inspiration, I was glued to the screen the last few times you’ve been on CreativeLive, I love your work with composites (and have since tried a few of my own) and I love your voice via social media. I feel like I already know you…sounds super creepy! haha. I know whoever you choose will be as grateful as I would be, but thank you for this opportunity.

    1. Oh Samantha, thank you so much for sharing your heart. I love what you had to say, and I am so grateful for you!

    2. Unfortunately, shortly after I wrote this, I discovered my dog of 13 years old (I’ve had him 11.5 years) had passed away in my living room. The guilt I feel right now is unbearable to think that I spent the last few minutes of his life commenting on this blog rather than being by his side. I am grieving and it hurts and I just wanted to share that, not to win a chance at the opportunity you are giving to someone, but to say that we should not take life for granted, we should live in each and every moment and not regret a thing. Even though I am feeling guilty about commenting on your blog, rather than being by my dog’s side, there is no way I could have known that he picked yesterday morning to slip away into a deep sleep. Guilt, anger, denial, acceptance are all part of the grieving cycle and I just wanted to share that.

      1. Samantha, I am so sad to hear this. Truly my heart aches for you. I had a similar experience a year and a half ago – I went away on a month-long trip to Europe and I had this terrible feeling the whole time that my cat, who was my best friend, might pass away…no good reason for thinking it, but I did. When I returned she had passed away, and I felt that same guilt for not being there when it happened. You will be in my thoughts and I will be sending you positive energy – I admire your courage and strength during this time.

    3. Thank you so much Brooke, I’m sorry to hear about your cat. I had those same feelings for the past few months that his time was slipping away. Trying to respect my heart and head in grief right now.

  9. Since I first left my California home to join the Army back in 1985, I have lived a somewhat nomadic existence, whether that was with my Army families in Fort Knox and Korea, my ex husband’s family in Philadelphia, my current husband’s family here in Illinois, not to mention all the work families I have had from job to job, they have filled a void where my real family has been absent. I can totally appreciate and understand how important it is to have a family of whatever kind and to feel like to are a part of and belong to that.

    More than anything the connections I make and the families I grow through photography have been extremely important to me and to entering a place where I feel free to express myself and find support and encouragement.

    That said, since I am entering this field as a much older person and am not able to hit the reset button and go back to school, it is extremely important to me to find means by which I can obtain education in my field that allow me to keep the day job which supports me and my family and the After Dark Convention would be a perfect environment for total emersion, but in a bite sized piece so I can maximize the benefit of the experience without having to give anything up to experience it, if that makes sense! And since St. Louis is soooo close to me, it is a perfect location!!

    As always, thanks Brooke for your dedication and generosity of self and knowledge, it constantly feeds and fills my creative cup!!

    1. Mary thank you so much for sharing! I am really glad to hear your story a little bit, as I feel like I know you through this blog…and I am always grateful to hear from you. xoxo

  10. To answer your question Brooke, I found that place where I could be me within myself. This last year I have had so many changes that the only thing that felt real was to just be me. And honestly it has been one of the most freeing feelings in the world. I have spent so much time trying to be the photographer and person that others have said I should be and it has really got me know where. I have made a huge jump to just be me, to not be afraid of these crazy ideas that get stuck in my head of projects that I dream about. To not be scared to share them with people. I want my work to genuinely reflect who I am and it is beginning to finally. I have a huge project (for me at least!) I am planning this late spring and I and searching for any and all resources at my disposal to help me create it. I have watched yours (and others) on creativelive, bought books, whatever I can but I am really hoping to go to a workshop and get some real hands on experience. I am wanting to create a three piece series based on the Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice, inspired by the lastest arcade fire album. I have it planned sketched and everything but I am still nervous about some of the technical aspects of it. I have been doing mini shoots to prepare and learning through trial and error but going to something like this would be amazing. Thank you for being you Brooke and at the end of the day I hope you know how much you have truly inspired people, myself included!

  11. Oh my goodness what a wonderful topic to explore!!! When I read your post the very first thought I had was….my mom….I know it is probably typical for people to feel most themselves around family, I am an honest person when it comes to other people, not so much when it is about me. I put on this faciade that I always have everything under control, that I am always strong, that everything is always happy go lucky, I help whoever I can whenever I can, I try to show no weakness…I don’t know why I do this?? My mom is my Rock!! I am completely myself with her, I can break down in tears, be completely rediculous with her, be as crazy creative around her, be weak, or silly emotional.. With my beautiful mother and best friend I am 100% my self!!

    1. Awwww Sacha I so identify with this! My mom is the same to me. I adore her wholeheartedly and she makes me feel safe and secure and like I can be myself.

  12. Hmmm… One paragraph. Yes I would like to join you and it has nothing to do with the future but rather living in the present. I would like to be there now because the future is never certain. I’ve been debating with myself about going to AD for a long while. I feel like it is a luxury I can’t afford but it also seems selfish asking for a free pass when other people are paying for the same experience. The truth is that while I would love to be there, you and many others have already generously shared more than I could have hoped for. Thank you.

  13. I know that I can be myself around my mom, and some of my friends, but I am honestly still trying to find that place or what have you that makes me feel completely myself. I am still trying to figure out what makes me feel like me in my photography as well. I’m not sure exactly what my voice has to say in this world. But…I know I strive to say something.
    And I guess I feel the most myself when I am at home. In my room. Home is a safe place. No one can hurt you, and you can’t hurt anyone. But…just as you, Brooke, are trying to push yourself to make a documentary and write a novel (both of which I’m SUPER excited about and can’t wait for them to come out. Cause I KNOW they will, cause you can do it!!), I also need to push myself more. Step out of my comfort zone. And..its very scary…but…I know it will be worth it. 🙂

  14. Hi. I’m about to finish my PHD in English from Louisiana State University, where I taught poetry and writing. I live in Raleigh, NC. I’m a writer and social media person. I’m 33 years old.

    Is there ever a time we should just completely “be ourselves?” Isn’t it more loving to perform strength when strength is needed? To perform certainty even though that’s never possible?

    There is no such thing as a stable self. We are moments, habits. Once we let go of our need to know ourselves, what unexpected destinations await us? If you skim my blog, you’ll see that I have documented some experiments with digital photography. I would like to learn more, to see how expressive and dangerous I can be with a camera. I feel accepted when I’m inside a poem by H.D. or, increasingly, a digital photo that captures something so perfectly that it becomes a world to live in for a while, and that sense of belonging, of rendezvous with the imagination, is enough to make life awesome.

  15. Sometimes when I show a photograph, I get a tightness in my chest, holding my breath hoping that maybe someone can identify with me. I am so passionate in creating an image because it is as if I have personified a piece of my soul to share. The truth is that not everyone will understand the parts of me I display in my photographs. It has taken me a long time to begin to create without inhibitions; like you, I explore the darkest parts of me that no one knows; in their darkness, they are beautiful. To have a place to be able to interact with you, who has been a shining inspiration on not only my work, but my life as well, and also form bonds within a community that holds the same values would be such a blessing. Being in college and still trying to carve out my creative path, creating relationships and interacting with professionals i admire is a priceless opportunity I would treasure. Thank you Brooke, for this opportunity and for being a light to everyone around you.

  16. Dear Brooke,
    I’m writing this for my husband. My husband started out as an artist, but soon fell in love with photography. After his office at work was shut down shortly after we were married, I encouraged him to start a photography business. In 2002 business was doing good and inn 2003 when we had our first child, I decided to join him in the business. We have struggled over the years to keep the business going but somehow we have always managed. My husband has always wanted to pursue photography as an art and really use his talent but has always been afraid. He really had seemed to have lost all interest in photography until he found you on Creative Live. I cannot express how thankful I am to you for sharing your talent and giving him hope and passion again.
    Going to Afterdark would mean beyond what I could express in words. He is more than your fan, he adores you! Your encouragement and passion for your craft has given him a direction and opened up his heart again.
    I hope you will consider selecting him for this wonderful opportunity. His name is Gene Doten, and we have been married for 12 years, he is my love and I wish this for him for Valentine’s Day. Thank you for reading my story Brooke and for all that you share and give to so many!!!!!!
    xoxoxo Maria Doten

  17. i feel like i am missing something in my photography. i know how to make a correct portrait, but i want to make a portrait that leaves me fulfilled. I want to take a portrait that makes me feel satisfied when i am done. I want to know how to take my visions out of my head and onto the portrait….

  18. Do I feel I can ever be completely myself? No. As a child I lived in my dreamworld which, to me, was the real world…everyone thought I was odd. Even though I was always top of my class, I never had a best friend. I left school at 15 because of familial financial problems (my father was a coal miner) and became a banker. The women in my family have a keen sense of “knowing” – sensing events before they happen, seeing auras, etc. I have always had an inner guide. Anyway, I came to America with one suitcase to the land of opportunity where I earned an M.A. in English Lit., wrote articles for a number of local publications, and wrote two cookbooks. Today, I have an amazing husband, exceptional children, wonderful grandchildren, and some dear friends. And yet, I am never 100% in my own self, except when I am alone. Too many horrible dark episodes in my life have estranged me from sharing my soul completely. But, since finding the work and words of Brooke Shaden, I now have an outlet for my experiences, my dreams, and my nightmares in photography. I discovered my visual voice.

    Because I am so fortunate in so many ways, I would like to provide a pass for a less fortunate person at this very important workshop. Please let me know, Brooke, if I may do so.

  19. I recently returned home from living in Costa Rica for three months doing volunteer work with a small community on the Bribri reservation. While there, I was with 6 other people: 6 people that became family to me. I felt like being in such a remote place with complete strangers, I was away from all the expectations, stereotypes, and images that I had back at home- mostly self created. I was able to be my most raw version of myself and bring that back home. I stopped trying to be a version of myself I wanted to be, and started just being me. I have an incredible group of supportive family and friends who greeted me with open arms. They are the ones who love me and appreciate me even when I struggle to love and appreciate myself.

    I have always loved taking photos and over the last few years have started to develop a business of portrait photography. I am still a complete newbie when it comes to photography, but I know that I love it. I want to be able to show people how beautiful they are through the images I take of them. I want to continue to do volunteer work and try to use my photography to help and encourage others. I want to teach what I know, even if it doesn’t seem like much to me. (Brooke, I think what you are doing in India is absolutely incredible! It’s so inspiring to see how you are using your skills and talents to teach others and build them up). I would love to be able to go to a workshop and learn from people who have all been where I am right now and had someone to encourage them to pursue their dreams.

  20. i got back into art photography last year after watching your creative live class. i have always been a person who is bubbly and happy but dealing with depression and anxiety underneath it all. lately those two things have gotten in the way of my usually happy self. my husband is in the navy and currently we are stationed in a very isolated area. a current struggle with infertility has only made things worse. i can’t tell you enough how your CL class hit me at the right time/right place. . .i needed it. it was the push to create again. and my art has comforted me and helped carry me through this hard time. all my work stems with trying to express the dark thoughts and emotions i go through. the constant negative undercurrent in my thoughts. i want to scream out to the world how i feel and for help but i don’t know how to say it, so i show it in my work. my husbands hates it. most of my family don’t understand it. and it usually makes me the odd one. lately i have found to be ok with being the odd one. i know my work is dark and deals with these negative thoughts but when sharing them and my journey through it i want to give people hope and inspiration(much like you) to hang in there. i hope people who feel the same can find comfort in my work and find a friend, feel less alone and maybe hold their head up a little higher to look for the light. i struggle with words and sometimes with trying to express the thoughts and story playing out in my head. this would be an amazing opportunity that i would never be able to attend otherwise. to meet other creative types who express themselves through art. to have a place to meet face to face with others who find themselves through their art.who understand the constant need to create. to meet others with passion in art. to meet you (which is a dream in itself) you are soo inspiring and touching and motivate me so much through creative live and your blog i can only imagine what it would be like in real life meeting you. you are this spark that lights every person’s creative light bulb you meet. this would help give me the strength and confidence and skills to not be afraid to move forward, to share my work, my journey with others and reach out to inspire and help others. thank you.

  21. Brook, I’m older than most of your followers and have retired from a long and stressful accounting career. I’ve always done photography on the side but never to the extent I do now. Yet I still found myself searching for what I really wanted to do with my camera. Then I found you and your work. Owning my own accounting firm made me force myself to be what I needed to be for a successful career but it wasn’t truly me. I’m insecure. I’m not attractive. I’ve always felt beneath others in society. But when I take my granddaughter out for a photoshoot and I can share those feelings and emotions in what I produce from it with my editing that I have learned from you, I feel good about me, my work, and I’m genuinely happy. Life is good, don’t get me wrong, and I am a very blessed individual. But the freedom I have trying to show the world what life is and can be is where I want to go and be. You have so inspired me and I am still watching the videos from Creative Live over and over. I learn something new everytime and I get so inspired I can’t wait to create a new image. Thank you for showing me the way.

  22. I never considered myself an ‘artsy’ person. Growing up, my friends were into sports, so I was too. I’ve always felt pulled by my creativity, but ignored it until a couple years ago when I began creating small things with my hands – nothing fancy or meaningful, just little trinkets for my family and friends. At the age of 30, I graduated from nursing school at 38 weeks pregnant with 2 children. I started working in an ICU 12 weeks after my little girl was born – what a bunch of life changes I had at once! My husband has been with me since 9th grade and has been an amazing support system to me, but even he doesn’t understand the way I feel and the things I constantly think about after working my job all night and taking care of three kids all day. Photography has been a joyful presence for me. It allows me to be a part of the lives of so many and bring them happiness. Then, I found you. Your art has inspired me to create my own. It has allowed me to release those feelings that I have buried deep down because nobody else understands them. Nobody in my family knows what it’s like to watch someone else fade away and to hold their hand on the way out. Or to sit with a family as they reminisce about the one in the bed. Or worse, to frantically fight to save someone, only to have them slip away out of your fingers anyway. Those things have scarred me, deep. The projects I have planned will help me to cope with that pain that no one else sees or understands. I cannot thank you enough for sharing your art with the world and inspiring me to create my own.

  23. I am a mother of three young children, but before that I did Art all the time. I dream of creating a life that is artistic now, but also don’t want to miss out on these precious years with my children and have a hard time finding balance. I fell into doing weddings and portraits as a way to do photography and make a little money. But it isn’t my passion and over the past year or so I have started saying no more to that which I am not passionate about and saying yes more to that which will bring me closer to who I want to be as an artist and person. Thank you for your inspiration, I love watching and listening to you and the way you think. You are a beautiful soul and have been sort of a mentor for me. This experience would be helpful for me to get out of my normal routine, but either way I just wanted to say thank you for being you;)

  24. I wish I could go, but sadly it’s not in the cards. I hope that you are able to create wonderfully vivid memories and friendships that will carry you forward and keep that amazing passion of yours burning as brightly as ever. You’re an amazing person and I can’t wait to see whats next for you.

  25. Sadly I already have some work plans for those dates 🙁 But I will keep an eye close to all those new changes you are talking about. I’d love to read your novel!!

  26. The day that I found out there would be no more After Dark, my heart dropped and I wanted to cry. I want so badly to be apart of this iconic event and it seemed like my last chance was impossibly slipping away forever. I have been to only one photography conference before, and it made a world of difference for me! I attended STAR a little over a year ago (It’s a smaller regional conference). At STAR I learned so much and made some very dear friends. In the year since, I have been published in print multiple times, found a corporate sponsor, and started teaching my own workshops. I still have a long way to go, but I am thrilled to have made so much progress in a year. I can only imagine the friendships. inspiration and education that await at AD!
    I have already registered, but I want to share what it is has cost and the sacrifices I am willing to make to nurture my art. Right now I am living in a house heated only by electric heaters in a snowy winter climate because the cost of propane is too high. My car is sitting in the driveway because it needs $550 in repairs before it can be driven. I am nervous that I won’t have enough to pay the electric bill when it comes so I’ve temporalily discounted my portrait sessions to bring in clients. After discussing this with my incredibly supportive fiancee, I made the decision to use my tax refund to go to AD and have faith that the rest will work it’s way out. I believe that sometimes you have to take risks to make your dreams come true. I can’t wait to meet you there Brooke. You are one incredibly inspiring lady!

  27. Photography is my catalyst and my harbor. The more honest I am with myself, the more honest my work becomes. It is more than a vocation for me. It is a leap of faith (every shoot). I am a nerd with a deep and abiding love for humanity, especially when it is undressed, vulnerable. When I shoot, I think about thinking less and feeling more, unclenching and living heart-wide. I want my images to capture letting go, giving in, passion, intrinsic joy. I want them to honor the dark spaces without feeling tethered to them always. I have never had the opportunity to be in a space where I could explore and refine my skills with other people. It has always only been me and my camera. I know that connecting and learning with others would be wildly inspiring. I’m ready.

    [for some reason the website field won’t believe me, but my website is http://www.beholdenphotography.com]

  28. I have always believed that passion starts from within…. that being said~ I first found your work while looking for a inspiration outside of myself. I was drawn to the way you are able to place a feeling inside a image and make your passions come to life in print. I have been following you and am drawn to your work. It keeps brining me back for more…. It’s the freedom to place thoughts, dreams and visions on print that I love. Thank you for all the inspiration that you bring. They say that if you open your soul, opportunity will come. My soul is open….

  29. Hi Brooke!
    I just took the creative live course with you. It’s silly but after 21 hours I feel like we are friends, even though you have never met me. You were beautifully inspiring. I felt like you took me along on a road trip through an enchanted forest filled with gingerbread houses, castles half washed away, giant mushroom forts and a fairy kingdom all while being chased by the stroke of midnight! I learned so much on thursday that I skipped a class friday to stick it out with you. I knew I would get more out of a day with you and I was right! Thank you! I feel happiest when I am creating or helping others to create. The images I make are heavily influenced by my imagination, I choose to illustrate characters in alternate realities as emotions incarnate. Inspiration comes in the form of childhood literature, music, art, and sometimes simply an object, or article of clothing. Creating sets, props, and costumes help bring my dreams to life through the lens. Post production is then used to composite, enhance, and polish (or sprinkle a little magic). The lessons I learned from you have already been helping me to have a better flow, writing out the stories I am trying to share for example. I love writing it out it brings the character so much more depth! I work alone allot as well, if I have an idea I want to do whatever I can to make it happen. I am trying to find my path, were I fit. Meeting people who I can learn from and possibly share something with would be an amazing opportunity. After Dark is a community I would love to experience. Photography is my way of bringing dreams to life. I really wanted you to know how wonderfully inspiring you are as a teacher and an artist! Thanks Brooke!

  30. Brook you are an inspiration! I got to see your Creative Live last week and was INSPIRED! Your work is so beautiful. You make it look effort less. ( but I know its a lot of hard work). Iam verry thank full for Jun Shu (who will be my photogrper for my wedding this year) for posting about it on her Facebook. I have been a photographer for almost 13 years and havent found my passion. I am currently working on that.!! I ve been stuck doing cookie cutter photography living pay check to pay check for way too long. I need After Dark to help me get to the next level. It would be an honor to be in one of your classes.

  31. The last After Dark? Wow! I guess I should preface this with don’t enter this one in the contest. I’m already signed up with hotel and flight booked. I’m somewhat in the position of Judy who commented above. Photography is not my livelihood. I’m a lawyer by day and then turn to photography/music/theater in my off hours to do something creative and rewarding. I’ve found that for most of my creative efforts, getting the opportunity to interact with other creatives is hugely beneficial. Mostly its because seeing how others see the world is inspiring and encourages me to step outside myself and broaden my perspective. Also, seeing how others approach the art and craft of photography gives me more insight into how to conceptualize and execute the ideas bouncing around in my head. I’ve had the chance to tune into your Creativelive sessions Brooke. Most of the time I’m not able to focus solely on the broadcast – I have it playing in the background at work and switch over every so often to see what’s up. (Alt-Tab is my friend). I can honestly say I’ve gotten so many little “lightbulb” moments when something you’ve said, or the way you set up a shot, or the way you adjusted a photo in post connected with other things in my brain and turned into a moment of clarity and understanding. I’m hoping my experience at After Dark is similar, lots of little moments that expand my knowledge and inspire me to push the envelope of my own skills and creativity.

  32. I don’t even know how to begin to explain how much it would mean to me to go to After Dark. Especially with you teaching. I am only 22 years old and have been struggling with finding the genre of photography I want to focus on. For the past few years I just did basic portraiture and have gotten fairly bored with it. That’s when I remembered how I got started. When I was 13 I discovered deviantArt and photo manipulations. I would play around with stock photos and Photoshop to make new creative images. So recently, after watching your Creative Live class last week, I realized that I could make these photo manipulations from my own photography. Somehow it didn’t hit me that I could go back to what I loved and make art from my photography. But since this is a recent revelation, I can use all the help I can get. Coming to After Dark would help me to be more confident in my work and style and it would push me like I can’t do on my own. This would mean the world to me and I have a lot that I want to express, I just need a little help with the technical side of it!

  33. I am an artist first and foremost. But I have struggled my entire life with using my artistic voice to create work that felt satisfying. When I finally picked up my camera, took it off auto, and began to see what an incredible creative tool it could be, my world shattered in the best way possible. I have never felt so free to express myself and it feels great. I ravenously consume every bit of knowledge I can get my hands on to hone my photography skills and keep improving artistically. After Dark sounds like it would be an incredible opportunity to do just that, and help blow the lid off my creative pot that’s starting to bubble over! It sounds exciting! Thank you for the opportunity to enter this contest and share our passion!

  34. After Dark is a unique “convention” that use experienced and talented mentors to help other photographers. Three years ago I went to a After Dark in Miami and I was amazed with all the mentors and how much information they were sharing. Until then, the best I was doing in Print Competitions was 78 points. After that, I’ve won South Florida PPGF Photographer of the Year, four best in shows and 12 first places. All that because few tricks I’ve learned with one of the Mentors. I hope I can be chosen for this privilege of been there for the last After Dark. Thanks for the opportunity!

  35. In December of 2012, my entire path was redirected.

    It was like I hadn’t perceived the world as it truly was. Suddenly, all I could hear was their sorrow. Even more than lost love, lost dreams seemed fillet the hearts around me. My pride made me a hard worker and ambitious, but what was I really striving for? Acceptance? Material gains? If I died that day… Had my life meant anything at all?

    I sold everything closed myself in to ask the big question. Who am I supposed to be? I never had to “be” anything, I was already complete and you are a mirror for what is in the core of my being. I wish to shine light into the darkness at whatever level I am capable of achieving. I have planted seeds in my family and I can’t see it yet, but I know it won’t stop there.

    I write this with hope, but I feel guilty for even sending it, because I know in my heart someone needs it more than I do. I hope you change someone’s life forever with this convention.

    Que Sera Sera,


    *I don’t have a website up and my first fine art attempt is the only one that’s made it to the web so far, but I’ll try to link you to it.

  36. After Dark is one of those events that has pulled at my heart every time I’ve read about. Many conventions offer all sorts of great learning opportunities but none of them have ever held the intense attraction that After Dark has. Unfortunately, every year there has been some roadblock that has stood in my way, whether distance or scheduling or family or whatever else fate conspired against me with. (Well, that last one doesn’t count as ‘against me’, no matter how amazing After Dark is it’s not better than the birth of our first!)

    Anyway, After Dark has become somewhat of my Moby Dick, a mysterious force that lurks right outside of my reach. This final After Dark presents an opportunity for me to learn, to grow, and to engage with others in a way that I never have before. Unfortunately, because this is the last deep dive of After Dark, if I don’t catch it now I’m certain that I never will.

    The opportunity to grow my business, grow in my craft, and renew my passion would be one that I would never, could never, forget.

    Have a great day and thank you for this fantastic opportunity, regardless of who you select!

  37. yes I do! It is you brooke! for many years I knew I loved photography and bringing priceless memories to families, but i always felt there was something missing. I was always so afraid to step out and try soemthing new and different, something that would come to my mind but i was too scared to attempt it because I already had people that would tell me I was no good, i was a ‘fauxtographer’ i shouldnt be taking photos at all, so why would i risk taking the other “weird’ photos that I had ideas for.
    Last year, June 4th to be exact, I was made aware of a page that had been created about me. it was just a bully page, a harrassing page that went from about my business, to my personal life, and even to my daughters surgery and biopsy checking for cancer, this person was relentless and wrote horrible things about myself and family. for 8 months this went on, daily i would check and save all screenshots,taking them to the police. they never found the person, but in the meantime, i found you.
    I watched you during photoweek on creativelive, i watched you do and talk about the things and the type of art that I WANTED to do, and heard you speaking about failure and excuses, and at that moment my life changed. I stopped looking at that page daily, I stopped caring what was said about me, and I started instead following you and others doing fine art, encouraging, and following their dreams to forge a new path. I learned fromyou how to look inside and ask myself “why am I doing this” and “what do i want to do” and “how can i get to that point”…i stared taking notes, and even started to create. I finally felt FREE of this person and all their followers that would bully me. I no longer cared if others hated my work, and i finally let go of trying to figure out WHY someone would even do this to me in the first place.
    still to this day i do not know who the person is, but honestly i dont care anymore. you;ve opened my eyes to so many new doors that i just need to reach out and open. I set 3 goals for myself in december when i started my blog and i have already reached 2 of them. i work hard each day to focus on what makes me happy, what makes my family and the supportive ppl around me happy, and intentionally stay away from those that bring me down or those that DONT support me.
    I heard soooo much from jen about after dark, and I have looked into it and would LOVE to attend, but simply cannot afford to. this would be the best oppurtunity for me to continue to grow and learn as an artist and continue on this journey.
    even if i dont get picked, this is the story i wanted tot ell you, how you literally changed my life. i was, at one point, so down from this person i started to believe that i was no good, everyone hated my art and i should quit. i was very depressed. then i found you and your different approach to art and living, and it changed my life. so thank you brooke! i am going to continue to grow in my art and journey and the lessons ive learned from you so far have been invaluable to that. i know i am somebody now and i do have something great to offer myself, my family, others, and the world as a whole. god bless you!

  38. After Dark was the first photography convention/class/expo/experience I ever attended, almost 3 years ago in Cincinnati. As I am assisting at this (sadly) last AD , I don’t need a free ticket. I just wanted to say to anyone who is thinking about it, even if you don’t win the graciously donated entry, you need to go.

    With 8 children and not a lot of money, I do understand what a big commitment AD is in both time and expense. You would be hard pressed to find more truly generous and talented mentors. But it will change your life. This is my 6th time. Find a way to go. 🙂

  39. when i was 12, my father took his life. on that sunny day in mid September, my world went dark and very cold. a numbness spread through my body and froze me in time. i stopped painting. i stopped drawing. i stopped sculpting. i stopped playing cello. i found i could no longer create the way i could before his death. kids at school were cruel and spread rumors and whispered in the hallways. i isolated myself even more. soon i discovered that through a camera, it was safe for me to see and experience the world. i’ve had a camera in my hands ever since. it’s my safety and my salvation and my connection. there have only been a handful of times since that day 31 years ago that i’ve felt safe enough to come out from behind my wall and be myself. one of those times was at my first After Dark, in Portland. there i met a group of people who, perhaps because we were sharing the most amazing experience and had all been through challenges in life, bonded instantly and deeply. i feel safe with them. i would love to see them all together one last time at the place we first came together.

  40. I’ve never gone to a photography convention or class in person, but since I’ve found your work, I’ve been so interested in doing so! I have spent the last week watching your Creative Live class in bits and pieces (only a few more videos left to watch) breaking up the work week and the snow days; and they have filled me with this tremendous inspiration and hope for the future! I think being able to attend a class would be just the push I need to bring all of this inspiration into the real world.
    My happy place is a person, my best friend Emily. This is a little weird, because I’m largely not a social person. I like people, I have nothing against anyone, but I prefer to spend my time alone, and am happiest that way. I even go so far as to take a week every year in the mountains by myself for what I’ve dubbed “Alone Vacation”.
    Emily has been my best friend since college, she was my TA in computer science and had a hell of a time teaching me about pointers- She is a person I can talk freely with about absolutely anything. Even though we rarely get to see each other, as we currently live 3K miles apart, we always make time to talk- I’ve even rigged my work instant message program to allow me to chat with her (shh!) I also send her my experimental baked goods for reviews (and it also tests the shipping ability of certain items, which can be mildly disastrous)
    I can truly be any self with her, and she accepts me or tells me when I’m being a total arse (and of course vice versa) I bounce my craziest ideas off of her with no fear of judgement or disinterest. She keeps me real, she grounds me, and she lets me fly. I love her dearly and wouldn’t be the same without her!

  41. Hi Brooke! I’m Sarah and I am a 19 year old photographer from Michigan. I was so pumped to stumble upon yet another “Brooke opportunity”! I cannot tell you how how much you’ve inspired me. I know this sounds cliche, but your words and passions empower me! I was SO on fire during your class on Creative Live. I snuck my laptop into work a few days in a row and attempted to hide my headphones behind my hair while I listened and vigorously typed notes. I’m so tired of being discouraged by both myself and others who keep saying that photography is not a practical dream. Your words speak to my heart, I even keep screenshots on my phone of the slides you used during your class to look at when I feel discouraged. You give me permission to allow myself to dream my fine art dream. I would love nothing more than to start taking even bigger steps towards bettering myself as an artist and inspire-er. 🙂

    But, let’s get to why I would love this AD opportunity. I want to learn and grow, and do so HANDS ON with someone I look up to. I would love to physically learn from a human being and observe professionals that specialize in what I love/dream about on a minute to minute basis. I love self-teaching and watching tutorial videos online, but I’m ready to be taught and surrounded by others that have my same passions….I have not found that community yet. Taking instruction and guidance from you of all people would be an absolute joy, honor, and dream come true. Thanks for taking the time to read this! I hope that just maybe I get to see you very soon! 😀 -Sarah

  42. Here is my best attempt at one paragraph:

    *I many years back, let myself down. I wasn’t true to myself or my heart. However, as of recent, thanks to you, I feel I found a focus and have a desire. More than anything, I want to find the ability to express myself and do something I truly love in order to be a better father. My children are amazing and mean everything to me. They are incredibly gifted creatively and I no longer want to be the father that needs to inspire them by telling them to follow their dreams and passions to avoid ending up in a position like me. I want to be the father who leads by example; to be myself, to not be afraid to express my feelings, and mostly to follow my passions and dreams to be truly happy and fulfilled. *

    These is my musings/ramblings about where that comes from if you care to read:

    A little less than 20 years ago, I set off to college as an Art Major. Due to some struggles (time and money), I ended up taking the easy route and graduated with a business degree. Ever since I’ve been working jobs that allowed my wife and I to get by as she continued her schooling and pursuing her passion; working and teaching autistic children.
    About a year and a half ago, I was really in a dark place and looking for a way to escape. I had gotten a camera 2 years earlier to take pictures of my children. I took a tech-school enrichment course and was introduced to a 365 being done by a local photographer. He did these amazing storytelling self-portraits. I was really inspired, though hadn’t done any type of art in 10+ years. I made a few attempts and they didn’t turn out anywhere near how they looked in my mind. Though, I was still inspired and didn’t want to give up, so I spend the next year trying to learn lighting, posing, editing and so one. My images were better. The lighting more interesting, the work was more polished, I was getting lots of positive feedback, but to me, the more images I produced, the more I found them lacking purpose when I would go back to look at them.
    Jane, the model you invited to last week’s Creative Live, has been so good to me since I first met her about a year and a half ago. Even when I knew nothing, she made me feel welcomed at a time I struggled to find creative people to work with and learn from. She been a huge influence in my photography and was actually the subject of my first published image late last year. As a result of these things, I wanted to watch to support Jane.
    Too be honest, I wasn’t completely aware of your portfolio or style prior to CL, but after taking a look I was very intrigued. Midway through the second day of CL, I felt as if my eyes were opened. I realized for how I wanted to shoot, I was going about it all wrong. It wasn’t about key and fill lighting, freezing you subject, perfect shots straight out of camera. It is about pulling your personal thoughts and passion out from within you., It is about expression of yourself through the model, their movement, their actions. After those three days, the way I wanted to think about creating images had change. You have inspired me and I am honored to be inspired by you.

    A huge fan of you as an artist, teacher and motivator,

  43. I’ve been putting this off since the first day you posted about this, Brooke! I’m awful with putting my feelings and thought into words, but here I go!
    I feel like I’m so close to unlocking something within myself, to figure out who *I* am. Always trying to please everyone- I’ve somehow lost myself being full time in this photography business, but I’m making my way back and can feel myself getting so much closer- to exactly what I’m not sure, but that is what excites me.
    I’ve been making it a point within these past few months to meet and go to a few workshops of photographers I admire and look up to that have such a strong self image- even though it might always be changing- their passion and drive seems unwaivering.
    To go to Afterdark would just be unbelievable- So many amazing instructors with so much to share and the passion to teach and give back- it’s incredibly inspiring.
    Looking to go on a road trip and find a little more of myself- and this would be one opportunity of a life time!

  44. I’ve been putting this off since the first day you posted about this, Brooke! I’m awful with putting my feelings and thought into words, but here I go!
    I feel like I’m so close to unlocking something within myself, to figure out who *I* am. Always trying to please everyone- I’ve somehow lost myself being full time in this photography business, but I’m making my way back and can feel myself getting so much closer- to exactly what I’m not sure, but that is what excites me.
    I’ve been making it a point within these past few months to meet and go to a few workshops of photographers I admire and look up to that have such a strong self image- even though it might always be changing- their passion and drive seems unwaivering.
    To go to Afterdark would just be unbelievable- So many amazing instructors with so much to share and the passion to teach and give back- it’s incredibly inspiring.
    Looking to go on a road trip and find a little more of myself- and this would be one opportunity of a life time!

  45. I’m so excited about AD. I get to be an assistant and I really hope that I am finally able to meet you in person!

  46. I just realized that I had missed the deadline. I was up late last night working on my grad school assignments and discussion posts.

    To go to After Dark and have the opportunity to work & learn from you has been a goal of mine since my instructor Marico Fayre suggested I check out work. She thought that I would enjoy your work and find it inspirational. She was right, of course she was.

    Not only do your create amazing images that push the imagination and bring to reality what is in our dreams but you are an inspiring person. You do so much for the community.

    I would love to sit and have tea with you and chat and of course create some images.

    I had not heard of After Dark before and so glad that you shared them with us. There are so many amazing photographers that will be there from March 30-April 2.

    I started my business in 2007 and went back to school in 2009 and have been working on my MFA in Fine Art Photography. Currently, I am working on Thesis, Mental State, which is a series that explores my experiences and memories of depression using metaphors. There are several images that I need to still work out but there are many techniques that I’ve yet to master and know that you are able to do. I would love love to learn from you. It would help me to create several images for my thesis and to push my skills to the next level.


  47. I have suuuuch mixed emotions – but I know that CHANGE has to happen….and it is because of After Dark I got my voice too. Thanks to people that cared or saw something in me that I didn’t see myself. To see past our own limitations. I just hope that I can gather up – and grab the next opportunities that come my way and our way….that take us to the place where we are supposed to be. I can’t wait!!!! Time to celebrate and say goodbye.

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