The balance of beauty between darkness
Reminiscent of dreams, Shaden’s images portray an element or concept through props and the clothes the models wear. Furthermore the way she positions her models, which often includes herself, she emphasises the beautiful nature of the human body.
What is most striking is her compassion for detail; her exploration of the world allows for her work to be communicated in different ways through the photographic medium. Using models in her photographs which are edited to emulate a painting, her images are beautifully crafted.
Dark art is a relatively contemporary style; often associated with the exploration of life, death and other contrasting elements. Using an array of techniques to create her images, Shaden has successfully created photographs using ‘levitation’. This technique which is then further refined in Adobe Photoshop, allows for the illusion of the model to be floating in mid air. Experimenting with this weightlessness has also lead Brooke to creating underwater photographs.
For Brooke Shaden “inspiration is everywhere” and she tries to see it everywhere in her world.
“It is like living in a state of inspiration rather than searching for it,” she said.
“I am inspired by the things around me: nature, first and foremost, as a backdrop to my work.
“I am inspired by certain themes, like life and death, rebirth, fairytales, and any form of storytelling.”
Shaden also remarks that ‘style’ is what sets one photographer apart from another and says it evolves naturally.
“I have always had a fascination with dark art and anything that made me think outside of my normal spectrum,” she said.
“To me, darkness is something that so many people shy away from because it forces us to question things that we often need not think about.
“It allows us to access a part of ourselves that might not get let out all the time, but when it does, it frees us from our fears.”
Focusing on contrasting themes such as life/death, reality/dreams, they are a grounding element for when she gets to work on creating her images. The themes are a starting point for creating a photograph and there are themes that Shaden goes back to that she can pull inspiration from.
“If I have a place to start, like a broad topic, I can put my own spin on it to make it specific and personal to me,” she said.
Originally creating photographs that were a lot darker in meaning such as “The Drift”, “Retention”, “Half Sister” and “Spin Cycle,” Shaden said that she put a lot of thought into the meaning of her photographs when she first started out. Now however, there is still meaning but often she is more tempted to do something “less obvious” and more mysterious in nature.
“I love that you picked up on those (images being different) in particular,” she said.
“If I wanted to portray someone feeling torn, I might literally split their body in half.
“My work is still conceptually dark but not as aesthetically dark. I think I have found a better balance between beauty and darkness.
“I am also working on adding more set design to my images to create fuller frame.”
Talking about her images “Preservation of Fairytales”…
“For that image, I wanted to give the illusion that a woman was frozen in a block of ice that had been melting. She was being revealed and introduced back into the world. In the image, we don’t know who the person is or what she will do when she escapes, and that is where the mystery comes from.”
“My opinion on the piece has always had to do with the title. To preserve a fairytale is to write one. The act of writing, or taking a picture, is one of the best ways of preserving a memory, so the title is a play on how not only was the girl preserved, but the memory of the fairytale is as well.”
“To create the image, I put the model in a clear plastic bucket of water. I then edited out the rim of the tub to create the illusion that the water was solid and that she was frozen inside.”
As well as photographing models floating in mid-air, Shaden has tackled the underwater realm as well – photographing a series of works for HBO’s True Blood. Now, applying that to her modern work, Shaden loves practising it as it allows her “access to a world that is widely unknown to us.”
“It is a place where humans cannot exist for long periods of time, yet in a photograph we can look for hours if we want, staying submerged in the space.”
“This excites me because it is truly creating a new world, which is what I love to do. It represents darkness and mystery because it is a place we cannot explore normally.”
In essence, Brooke Shaden has not only created her own style but broaden the scope for modern day photography. Reminiscent of dreams and evoking a sense of mystery – often you look at the image wondering how she created such a piece.
“I do love the square format because it gets rid of the standard 2:3 aspect ratio that a photograph will give. I want people to look at my images and forget that they are photographs; not because I dislike photographs, but because I want the concept to be at the forefront of the image.
“I love the Pre-Raphaelite painters. They give me inspiration in light, the way it hits skin, and colors as well. I think that painters are such interesting subjects because they have to choose, each time they change the picture, exactly how and why they are going to do something. This is a mindset that I cherish while working on my photographs.”
‘The key to living a happy life is to figure out what makes you happy.’ – Brooke Shaden