Imaginative, versatile, and a master of concept, Brooke Shaden is a fine art photographer specializing in staged photography that combines allegorical symbolism with personal narrative. Utilizing props as well as commonplace objects, Shaden transforms the world around her into compelling, intricate dreamscapes that combine the strange with the familiar. Yet despite some of the darker elements, Shaden’s new body of work maintains resounding optimism and hope.
Aptly titled, her series, Begin Again, depicts a rebirth of self. Alluding to a reimagined future, reevaluated preconceptions, and a reinvention of the artistic process, Shaden thoroughly explores humanity, renewal, and evolving with change.
“Change - the most difficult of human experiences, and we do it over and over again. A new job, a new partner, a death, a life...all changes, all bittersweet. We call them different things - grief, joy, excitement, anxiety - but it's all change. Metamorphosing is not a single experience. At any given time we are exploding with butterflies and decay. We are constantly letting go of old and ushering in new,” Shaden explains.
Capturing her subjects with vulnerability in their poses, Shaden’s portraits are unusual, emotional, and transformed, exposing the beauty and darkness of human nature to establish a real human connection. Metaphorically rising from the darkness to be born anew, the compositional focus of her photographs is placed on the figure’s relation to their environment and the implied narrative, rather than on human likeness or facial expression.
The relationship between the background and the figures highlights the difficulties of navigating a decidedly modern and confusing world and how it can overwhelm a sense of self. While each figure in the series is Brooke Shaden (sometimes with 80 clones of herself), ambiguity of the figures' identities provides unity and inclusivity to the viewer- two invaluable mindsets during times of uncertainty or change. Printed on a velvet paper, the soft texture lends the appearance of a diffused watercolor painting, adding further mystique and intrigue to the already ambiguous location, era, and ethnicity of her figures.
Chronicling the human condition, she concludes, “We need art right now. We always do, but now especially. We need it to feel connected, to find something beautiful in darkness, to find darkness in something beautiful, and to see ourselves reflected in ideas bigger than us as individuals. That is how we find connection - when we see a piece of who we truly are mirrored back through fragments of the world.”