Brooke Shaden is a conceptual fine art photographer specializing in self-portraiture and focusing on beauty, rebirth, death, and decay. When exploring the dark and light within people, she has won accolades for her cohesion and storytelling skills. Beyond self-portraiture, Brooke is a philanthropist who has a passion for giving back and conducts self-expression workshops for those who have been victims who have been victims of trafficking in human beings. Brooke also founded the Light Space, a photography school that assists survivors of trafficking of human trafficking in India and Thailand.

For the Photographers Without Borders (PWB) ongoing “Storytelling for Change” webinar series, Brooke joined PWB Founder Danielle Da Silva for a discussion on the power of the power of creativity.

Below are edited excerpts of the conversation and focus on the unique self-portrait style of Brooke in photography. They also discuss her artistic method and her inspiration for creating artwork amid isolation, the power of telling stories, and the best way to build a self-sustaining company.

Danielle Da Silva: How do you approach storytelling? What is the key to a great story? What are the best ways to identify the best stories?

Brooke Shaden: It’s the area I’m passionate about the most. For me, the most incredible storytelling is the result of making something that you are passionate about at a personal level and making it accessible to a broad audience. I’m aware that many artists have the opposite view and believe that when you’re an artist, you’re not creating for anyone else but you. It’s ideal to make work because you’re compelled to make it. However, 50 percent of the reason I make artwork is to share it with others. I am looking for a connection. You feel compelled to write the best stories because you need to create them. However, it would help if you were thinking about how it could impact others.

The way I accomplish that is through symbolism. I can find universal languages that everyone around the globe can understand and utilize to comprehend the story. In my pictures, I attempt to convey this feeling of universal symbolism, where the props, locations, and the clothes, as well as other items I’m using, are all recognizable to anyone in any society. I’ll make use of clocks to symbolize the time. I keep it basic so that my image isn’t overpowering, yet it’s enough to appeal to the most significant number of people.

Images by Brooke Shaden

Da Silva: In this world, everything has an immediate reaction. What reaction do you want to create? What changes are you attempting to bring about?

Shaden, I intend to encourage introspection. The best positive things happen to people when they face themselves first. Then, they can meet the world in the next step. However, we tend to do the exact opposite. People’s instinct is to socialize, be out there, respond to the world, and later return to themselves.

If you’re experiencing aa midlife crisis or feel something isn’t working, I urge people to connect with themselves first. It’s only possible to impact the world when you’ve bonded with yourself first and first.

To view Brooke Shaden’s complete webinar, sign up for our online community and become a PWB member of the community. As members, you’ll get access to the entire “Storytelling for Change” sessions with notable storytellers from photographers worldwide.

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