Brooke Shaden, 2008 alumna, snapped the winning photograph to represent “Time,” one of eight themes in a film as part of Canon’s contest.
Two girls run through a high-grass field in long dresses, in what appears to be a hazy early morning light or sunset. One’s carrying a lantern, they’re both looking behind themselves curiously. Director Ron Howard said the image perfectly embodies the concept of time.
The image, created and captured by 2008 alumnus Brooke Shaden, was chosen to inspire the concept of “time,” – one of eight theme’s in Howard’s new short film, “When You Find Me.” The eight images were chosen and the subsequent film was created as part of the Canon Project Imagin8ion contest. The winners were announced last August, and the movie premiered in November.
“I noticed the contest was about combining photography and filmmaking, my two passions, so I thought it’d be fun to see if the cinematic quality to my images would show through to judges,” Shaden said.
Evidently they did, and the feel of the photo isn’t incidental. When Shaden came to Temple in 2005, she had her sights set on and received a degree in filmmaking. After graduating, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the field. She spent a year as a receptionist for a production company and then as a legal assistant at Paramount Pictures, but quit the entertainment industry to become an artist and photographer full-time.
“I decided to try my hand at photography and sort of fell in love with it right away,” Shaden said. “I had a filmmaking background, which made the jump into photography really easy.”
She said that the process of filmmaking was a better fit given the way she likes to work.
“The end product is not any more satisfying, but I definitely prefer to work alone rather than with groups of people,” Shaden said. “There’s one concept then it’s all finished and out in the open in a matter of days rather than years.”
Taking photography from a hobby to a full-time gig, Shaden said her career quickly picked up speed, but she was adamant about avoiding commercial or freelance photography. She waited until she had enough money saved to launch a strictly fine arts career.
“I figured that I have an interest in photography and just want to create the ideas in my head, so if I’m going to go for it [I should do so] as fully as I could and not look back,” Shaden said.
Since then, she’s been actively teaching photography workshops and said she hopes to do more in the future, especially for large-scale classes at conventions. She’s releasing a book next year, and currently has an exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography in L.A. She added that she hopes to do a little bit of experimental filmmaking in the future.
Her 350-photo portfolio includes many images possessing other wordly qualities, and Shaden said that aspect of her shooting has always been “really personal” to her.
“I’ve always been creative in a way. For a little I thought I’d be a writer, then filmmaking, then finally photography, but all along the way I was inspired by anything dark, surreal and whimsical,” Shaden said. “That came largely from within, no outside inspiration, that’s just where my imagination takes me.”
And though her relocations to Philadelphia and then Los Angeles may suggest otherwise, Shaden said she prefers the countryside to city life, and many of the photos in her portfolio include natural surroundings.
The Lancaster, Pa., native now lives about an hour north of L.A. and said that her Central Pennsylvania roots have affected her style.
“I think being from a small town, a small place where you find nature everywhere you look, has hugely inspired my photography – I’m always trying to shoot natural locations instead of an urban landscape,” Shaden said.
She felt the photo was fitting for the concept of time because of both the timeless quality of the clothes and the setting, which could be interpreted as dawn or dusk. The foggy scene was constructed by Shaden’s friend running out in front of the camera for one shot, Shaden doing the same in another shot, and then the two images being composited together. She submitted the photo in the spring of last year, and was notified that she won last July.
Since the film premiered, she’s returned to her hometown for a screening as well as others in New York and L.A. While the chosen photographers didn’t have a hand in crafting the movie, she said that Howard spoke with them individually about their photos. He told Shaden that he was drawn to her image because it “required almost no work on his part,” and “already looked like a movie image.”
“They did a good job incorporating every photo into the mix, and they very literally created every photo as a moving image – that was really neat, and I felt really happy with how they used mine,” Shaden said.
Kara Savidge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.