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Out Of Mind » FEEL GOOD ~ BODY & MIND » AMAZING PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS » These Surreal Photos Are Beautiful, But Tell A Story You'd Never Expect

These Surreal Photos Are Beautiful, But Tell A Story You'd Never Expect

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These Surreal Photos Are Beautiful, But Tell A Story You'd Never Expect

MARCH 17, 2015    —  By Laura Caseley    

There are times when art fascinates you in a way you never expected...and these photos do just that. They mix both the surreal and human elements in such a pleasing way, you'll become lost in them.

Brooke Shaden
Like most artists, photographer Brooke Shaden uses her work to express her inner world and personal experiences visually. Shaden accomplishes this by using symbols, colors, and images to reveal things that might get lost in language. She combines traditional modeling (using herself), landscape photography, and digital manipulation/editing to create surreal, often dreamlike images.
Shaden is also a motivational speaker and blogger, and uses her artwork to illustrate not only her struggles, but her values, dreams, and hopes as well. She hopes to inspire others with all of her combined media. We recently had the pleasure of talking with Shaden about some of her influences, inspirations, and experiences with photography.

Brooke Shaden
This photo is about making the best out of a not-so-good situation by using one's imagination.

The Protection of Important Things

Brooke Shaden
This photo includes a behind the scenes video on Shaden's blog that gives some insight into her artistic process.
ViralNova: When did you first become interested in photography?
Brooke Shaden: I took a photography class in high school and very much did not enjoy it, so I decided to pursue filmmaking and English when I entered college. It was only after I finished my degrees that I picked up a still camera again and realized that, without any restrictions placed on my work, I was able to discover a whole new world in my camera. That was in December 2008, and I got serious about photography in 2009.

Caught in a Dream

Brooke Shaden
Shaden says that this image, of being tangled up in a dream apart from the real world, is a concept she's imagined for many years.

Brooke Shaden
This photo explores the concepts of navigating disappointment, and going forward even when you feel like giving up.

Brooke Shaden
This one is about pulling yourself out of ruts and refusing to sink under.
VN: What has shaped you as an artist? How do you find inspiration?
BS: I think there are a couple main things that have shaped how and why I create. One, technically, is reflecting on my college education. We were taught how to use motion picture film cameras and I went to school as one of the only girls among a sea of very technical guys. It seemed "cool" to talk about gear and f/stops and I was always a quite lost in it. It made me feel inferior at the time. When I finally took up photography, it was just me. I didn't have a crew to work with or people who seemed "smarter" than me. So I made up my own rules, and took the most minimalist approach possible to photography. I use natural light, a camera and a tripod, and myself as the subject on most days.
The other thing that has influenced me is my love of dark things. I have always been drawn to sadness and death, as I see that as a very beautiful thing. I have taken this love of darkness into my work, always trying to make it more obviously beautiful.

Brooke Shaden

Brooke Shaden
Shaden's photos also explore human relationships and love. She uses the human form in interesting, unexpected ways that highlight less predictable aspects of beauty.
VN: What stories do you want your photos to tell?
BS: I want each image that I create to be dark, either aesthetically or in the concept, with something beautifully countering that. If the concept is dark, I want the image to be visually beautiful. If the concept is hopeful, I want the image to be dark. I love creating this juxtaposition because it represents, to me, how I see the world. So often beauty is heightened when you see the opposite. Light is brighter when we know darkness. This is the heart of each story I want to tell.

Brooke Shaden

Brooke Shaden
The two images above come from a series directly addressing Shaden's fibromyalgia, a disorder that causes widespread pain and fatigue in the body. Using herself as a model, she explores the multiple sides of having such a condition. The butterflies represent growth and transformation. She talks candidly about making this series on her blog.

Brooke Shaden
One of the interesting things about Shaden's work is its ambiguity. According to Shaden, this piece is about connectedness, and the positivity that can come from human interaction. The large hand, though, can also be read as ominous, and in this way, Shaden's work can be interpreted from many viewpoints.

Brooke Shaden
This image comes from a series about the transformation of endings into beginnings, taking the two-sided concepts that fascinate Shaden so much and representing them visually.
VN: How do you feel when you create your art?
BS: When I was probably about six years old, I saw a hot air balloon in the sky. My mom was driving my sister and me, and when we spoke up about it, my mom took us on a one-hour hot air balloon chase. When we finally caught up with it, the balloon was landing in a field. We were awestruck, excited, and felt like we could do anything. That is exactly how I feel when I create art. I am chasing and chasing, looking for the story that defines all stories, trying to share that with the world. I am in awe of the magnitude of possibilities it leads to. I am powerful because of it.

Brooke Shaden
Sometimes, Shaden's work is inspired by seemingly mundane things, like a new hair color, as she explains in the behind-the-scenes for this piece.

Brooke Shaden
This Alice in Wonderland-like image is about facing fears head-on.

Brooke Shaden
Sometimes, the concepts are more nebulous. This photo is more about evoking a feeling or a mood than having a direct message.
VN: Is there anything you think that all photographers or artists should know? What advice would you give new members to the creative community?
BS: Your story is the one thing that will always separate you from others. Many of us have similar tools at our disposal, the same ways of learning, and similar ways of creating. But the story behind all of that technique is what will define each of us as artists. That story, for me, always comes before all else. Know your story. Write it beautifully. Find inspiration in your personal voice and message.

Brooke Shaden
Here are some behind-the-scenes looks at one of her photos. The final product is in the center. The surrounding images are from the shoot, prior to editing and manipulation.
Besides art, Shaden is also involved with fibromyalgia awareness. She will participate in New York's Caterpillar Walk in May, which was created to raise awareness for the disease. She's currently heading a fundraiser for research. You can also see the rest of her photography work on her website, as well as the stories behind the images on her blog, Promoting Passion, and Facebook page.

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