Brooke Shaden: A Visionary Photographer or Good Editor?

It’s no secret that I am a massive fan of Brooke Shaden’s work. Ever since I saw her image Tally around 3 years ago, she has been a constant source of inspiration. She is someone who has constantly amazed me with her imagery, technique and skill- that is up until recently.

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You see, I am very aware that Brooke creates ‘whimsical’ and ‘dreamlike’ images, but I feel that her more recent pieces of work, such as Flight Of The Fallen and To Be Prepared have gone beyond the conceptual self-portrait photographer that I first followed into a do-it-all-in-Photoshop digital artist. Without trying to put Brooke down, her work is still nice, and as a photographer myself, I respect the incredible amount of hours and effort she puts into every image, but after looking at her recent work, I can’t help but feel that her work would not exist if it were not for Adobe Photoshop.

Don’t get me wrong; I definitely like to run my own images, somewhat extensively, through Photoshop but if you’re spending 40+ hours constructing a scene by placing hundreds of different elements together to create an image, then, for me, that goes beyond photography and into the realm of digital art and collage.

This is not an entirely bad thing, but I wonder how it will affect the future of photography, particularly if people are looking at her work purely as photography. Brooke has a pretty large following and I guarantee that she has a big influence over a lot of them, so by creating images that are so extensively edited, others will start doing this too, and then soon it will be the norm for photographers to do this. The problem is that she is not the only photographer doing it.

Other notable photographers who fit into this category are Miss Aniela and Kirsty Mitchell.

With Kirsty Mitchell’s work, which is akin to a large film production is amazing, and I feel that with the backstory of it, it really adds to the final picture and that there is a purpose for this grand design. Besides, almost everything within each image Kirsty photographs is created within camera and her work is only slightly edited within Photoshop. In many ways, her work is quite the opposite of Brooke’s and she shows what can be achieved by applying yourself to total control over an image.

The same goes for Miss Aniela’s latest work, her Surreal Fashion series. The way in which she edits her images, merging old paintings with photography really adds to the final images and the overall context of her work.

I’m not saying that Brooke Shaden’s use of extensive editing is all bad, I just feel that her older images are much more interesting and meaningful because the end results were achieved pretty much in camera and Photoshop was primarily used to change colors and add textures. Images such as A Class Worth Taking and My Little BlueJay are interesting because they are so simple. Even images such as Imagination Island and To Lift Her Up, which include some editing in Photoshop, really profit from this and it gives the images that extra ordinary sense of wonder and magic.

As a fan of Brooke Shaden’s work, I would like to see her go back to creating simpler images and to utilise Photoshop, not rely on it. She has enough talent to capture intriguing images without having to create images that are so far removed from what she originally photographed by constructing them piece by piece.

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