Brooke DiDonato – Fine-Art & Commercial Photographer


– Hello, and welcome to
the i3 Lecture Series hosted by the Master’s in
Digital Photography Program at the School of Visual Arts. We are thrilled to have
photographer Brooke DiDonato as tonight’s guest speaker. Originally from Ohio, Brooke
is currently based in New York. After studying photojournalism
at Kent State University she embarked on the personal body of work questioning the notion of realism predicated by the photographic medium. Her series of self-portraits
“A House Is Not a Home” has been exhibited throughout
the U.S. as part of The Fence and is included in the
permanent collection at the Southeast Museum of Photography. Her work has also been
exhibited internationally, most recently at KINDL Centre
for Contemporary Art in Berlin and the Delphian Gallery in London. Commercial clients include Adobe, HUAWEI, Refinery29, and Coach. Please help me welcome Brooke DiDonato to our lecture series. (audience applauding) – Hi. So, thank you guys for coming. And thank you, SVA, for having me. So, I thought I would
start with the beginning. And when I say the beginning
I mean that quite literally. This is a photograph of my
parents’ bedroom circa 1990. And for those of you who
have already seen my work, this sort of is reminiscent of a set that you might stumble upon
in one of my photographs. So, as I was preparing for this lecture I was reminded of this picture. And I called up my mom, I
was getting on the train and I was like, “Mom, Mom,
do you remember that picture “of you and my dad’s bedroom?” And she’s like, “Yeah, why?” And I’m like, “Well,
when was that picture? “Was that before I was born?” So she’s like, “Yeah, why are
you asking about that photo?” And I was like, “Well, I’m
preparing for this presentation “and I was just thinking, you know, “that photo kinda looks
like the work I make now. “And I was wondering if maybe
I was conceived in this room “and what a good story that would be.” And she’s dead silent. And then she just starts laughing. And she’s like, “No, no, no,
you were conceived in a hotel.” So moving on, a question
that I get a lot of times is when did you decide to be an artist? And I can’t say that there
was a defining moment, or at least I don’t think
there was where I was like “I’m gonna continue
down this very exciting, “but unstable career trajectory.” But, I found this report on me
aptly titled A Report On Me. And if you go like three paragraphs down you will see that it says, “When I grow up I would
like to be an artist.” So this was age nine. So now I know that I guess age nine I decided to be an artist. And I know some of you have
probably read farther along and you’ll see that I
like playing video games, I like petting my cat. And you’re wondering who is
this really cool nine-year-old? So we’re just gonna lay
this to rest real quick. And moving on. So, this is where I’m from. Not precisely here, but
this is across the street from my dad’s house where I grew up in sort of like suburban and rural Ohio. And I never really thought of this as particularly inspiring growing up. I kind of came to New York six
years ago because I was like, “I can’t make interesting work in Ohio. “I need to go somewhere else. “I need to move to a big city. “I need to meet new people. “I need to step out of my comfort zone.” Little did I know that
Ohio would actually become the backbone for much of the
work that I’ve been making for the last six years. So, I started out
studying photojournalism, which most of you probably
know is essentially like the practice of telling
stories with pictures. And I was in school at Kent State. And I was really interested in the arts and I heard about this major
called photojournalism. And I was like, “I’m
gonna sign up for that. “I don’t really know what that’s about, but that sounds good.” And I got into my, one of my first classes called Visual Storytelling which sounds pretty straightforward. But I got into this class and I just like totally
was out of my element. I had never really thought
about telling a story in a single image. And in this class throughout
the course of the year we learned about all of these
very famous photographs. So we learned about Nick Ut’s Napalm Girl. We learned about John Filo’s photograph from the Kent State shootings. And it was like the bar was so high. And there was just like this massive gap between what I wanted to do and what I was actually capable
of doing with my skillset. And I think that’s kind of what
we’re gonna talk about today is that gap. And that gap is really always there. And sometimes it sort of widens. And you’re like, “How am I
ever gonna get over there?” And then sometimes it’s
very narrow and you’re like, “I’m almost there.” And then it widens again. So that’s kind of what
we’re gonna get into. So, looking for subject
matter, as I mentioned, I started returning home
to my hometown in Ohio. And I started noticing things that I had never noticed before. So this is my dad’s toilet. I have probably sat on this
toilet hundreds of times, never thought much about it. But all the sudden coming
back to Ohio I was like, “Wow, this is really interesting.” The floor is carpeted which
has been pointed out to me so many times since then,
which actually is kind of odd. But I’d never thought about it again. And I was really into this wallpaper. I sort of like built this
little setup in the bathroom. And I just shot it with window light. And then moving on from there I started getting into self-portraiture. It became a really good way
for me to get comfortable with my camera and also get comfortable, I guess like on both sides of the camera. There’s sort of a lot to be
learned through self-portraiture because you’re, the
trial and error is like you’re so involved with it. And I think there are certain
aspects of like, you know, you can make a self-portrait
that’s bad and you look at it and you’re like, “Oh, I look
bad there, that’s not working.” But then working with
models down the road, it’s like you maybe don’t
want to be as frank. So there’s a lot of good, I
guess, foundation to be built from working in self-portraiture. So this was sort of like weighing in on the idea of domesticity and sort of playing with
the weight of these ideals and what society tells women
that we should be doing. And this sort of became
part of a larger series that I’ll show later. This is another self-portrait in a cactus. I don’t work in self-portraiture
quite as much as I used to. But then there are certain
things like this where I’m like, “I couldn’t possibly ask
someone else to do that.” This was taken in
Austin, Texas, last year. I was visiting my friend. And we were walking through the park and I saw the way the light
was hitting this cactus patch and I was like, “Do you
think I can get in there?” And she’s like, “Please don’t. “I know people here. “That’s just super uncomfortable.” So I went back the next day, I put on some extra layers of clothing, which didn’t really do much, like I still had a lot of
cactus needles in my body. But I think it was sort of worth it. So then moving on from there I started photographing other people. This is my partner. And she used to really
love doing this stuff. I think she’s here. And I think she really is
not a fan of this anymore. But this was, I went to
Europe for the first time this summer and we were in Italy and we were staying in
this Airbnb situation. And so there were other people. And we had this moment where
no one was in the hallways. And I was like, “Get in.” And we just rolled her up real quick. So thankfully we got it on the first roll, ’cause the, you know,
coulda gotten awkward. This is another picture of her. And this was taken in
Seoul in South Korea. And then moving on from there, Instagram has become a
really great way for me to meet other people who
are interested in modeling to collaborate and things like that. And this was actually a florist who I met with a few months ago. And I showed up at her, I do
a lot of stuff with flowers, which you’ve seen already. But she, I showed up at her apartment and she just had like this buffet of this massive arrangement
of beautiful flowers like I’ve never seen before. And I really did not know what
we were gonna do with them. And then we sort of just
threw them all on her. And this is a video. – [Woman] Okay, well, you
look it up and just tell me, it’ll just make it easier. Okay, I’ll text you when I’m on the way, I’ll just hop in a cab. – [Man] Okay. – [Woman] Okay, love you. – [Man] Love you too. – [Woman] Bye. – [Man] Bye bye. – So it’s, the behind-the-scenes of these are pretty funny ’cause she’s like, “I’m gonna hop in a cab.” And I’m like, “No, you’re not.” So, and then this was the finished image. So obviously a lot of the flowers and such were toned in post. I do a lot of digital
painting on top of the images. And that was that one. And then this is another
behind-the-scenes. And then this was the
image we made that day. Okay, so. Going into the I guess
foundation of this presentation, I’m gonna sorta touch on
three different things. One of them is places. So, where do you look for inspiration? Places are a huge part of
the work I’ve been making for the last six years. I spent a lot of time wandering
around scouting locations. And then kinda building a
narrative on top of that. So, back to the cornfield
across from my dad’s house. So, this is, this was
taken in winter obviously. And then here, in 2011 this
is the first self-portrait I ever made in this place. You can see it looks much different than the work that I just showed you. And I’ve kinda like composited four different versions
of myself together. I turned the photo black and white, which I maybe wouldn’t do now. And then I kinda added this
weird texture on top of it. So this was during a time, I was still in college at the time. And I had just started
making self-portraits and was doing a project
where I challenged myself to make one conceptual
image every day for a year. So, this was during that time period. And moving on, you’ll see,
this is a year later in 2012, and I’m back at this location. This time I’ve brought a prop with me, I’ve shot it at a lower angle, there’s sort of some weird
red haze that I’ve added, more textures up top. And I’m really just trying to make an interesting photograph at this place. So going on to 2013, and I’m here again. It’s winter now. And I, again, I’m not really
sure what I’m trying to do, but I’m going back to this place again and I’m trying something again. 2013, same thing. This time I roped one of my friends in. The cops actually stopped for this, which is very uncharacteristic
of shooting in Ohio. And they were like, “Are you okay, ma’am?” And it was like, “Yeah,
it’s just an art project.” So, this was actually very,
you can see, atmospheric because this was December
but it was unseasonably warm. So there was all this really
great fog that rolled in. And it just totally changes
the feel of this place. So 2014 I’m here again. I made some strange
headpiece out of balloons. I really, there’s sort of
an unspoken understanding, I think, with the neighbors
who actually own this property where they don’t call the cops on me and I quietly leave when I’m
done shooting self-portraits. Sometimes I bring my dad with me and he just sort of like stands there because it makes me
feel more secure I guess with what I’m doing. So then moving on, 2016. I’ve made this weird telescope thing. I don’t know, we have some
birds going on up here. I’m just like really trying to make a good picture in this place. But you can see that in every photograph I’m not really engaging with the place. I’m actually using the
place as just a backdrop. So I’m just kind of showing
up with whatever I think of. And I’m just using the, I’m not really utilizing the location. So then moving on to 2017 and I finally make
something that maybe feels a little bit more authentic to
the first images I showed you where I’m kind of actually
engaging with the place. I also happened to catch the
corn before it was cut down, which was lucky. So, the next thing is subjects. So what do you like to photograph? So I think if you, any of us, if we look through our
camera rolls on our phone maybe it’s your dog,
maybe it’s your child, maybe it’s interiors. Whatever it is, there’s something that you’re constantly seeing that other people are not seeing, or they’re seeing it
different than you are. So, as I started to return home to Ohio, I started noticing things like this. This is my mom’s old couch. And I, again, never thought much of it. And then I was, as I was
returning home I was like, “Oh, this is actually
interesting, I like this.” So, in 2011 I made one of my
first self-portraits there. There’s a levitating teapot,
I was really into levitating. I was making everything
levitate at this point. And I also consider this
my prom dress period because I was wearing my prom
dress for almost every photo. And my mom was so amped. Like she’s like, “My 21-year-old daughter “still loves her prom dress.” So she’s like, “Yeah,
it was good investment.” So this one of the first
things I did there. And then again, 2012, not
sure what’s happening here. But, you know, I’m cutting
up old stuffed animals and sort of trying to make
something interesting here. And then in 2012, all the sudden the couch becomes the background. It’s not the main thing anymore. It’s actually something
secondary to the main subject. And so now I’m sort of like getting into something interesting. And this photograph is,
actually became the first image in a series which I’ll come back to later. So another object is this dollhouse that my grandmother gave me. And it’s very ornate, there’s all these little
mini pieces of furniture and little knickknacks
that we decorated together. And one day in 2011 I dusted it off and I moved it to the
front of my dad’s house and stuck my head in it
and made this picture. And then literally never
picked up that dollhouse again for years. 2014, I dust it off again and
I start just photographing it. This time from the interior and kind of playing with
scale and looking at how, the weight of these different
objects in this space. And so moving on to 2016 and I’m now sticking my head
in this dollhouse again. But from a different angle. And the idea for this photo was I saw it as being like a
closing image to this series that I was working on at the time, which I’m gonna show you guys
an overview of in a second. But I really just like
had this idea in my head and I was like, “No,
this is the closing image “for this series, I have to get this.” So, I basically shot this in
Ohio in my dad’s front yard. And I brought it back to New York and I started just like going
around every single edge of this dollhouse in
Photoshop to turn it blue because I was like, “I need to, it needs
to look a certain way.” You’ll understand in a second. But, so I’m sitting there at my desk for maybe eight, nine hours trying to match up this color blue to the color of my dad’s house. And I’m also trying to fill in
these trees in the background because it’s very clearly winter, there’s no foliage back there. So I’m sitting there with the clone stamp and my partner comes home, I’m
seriously like 10 hours in, and she’s like, “What are you doing?” And I’m like, “Oh, I’m just
making this house blue. “And I’m making it spring
back there and everything.” And she’s like, “Why don’t
you just go reshoot it?” And that seems really obvious, right? Like I should just go reshoot it. But I think as artists we
just never want, we’re like, “What did you just say?” Like, “Did you just say that
you want me to go back there “and reshoot it?” And it’s like this,
you’re almost offended. And I think that’s something that has been really beneficial for me to become more comfortable
with the last few years is like instead of just moving forward, stopping and actually being
like, “What are we doing here? “Could we have done that better? “Can we go back? “Can we make it better?” And that’s just been invaluable I think to the work that I’ve made recently. You know, with clients you
don’t really have that luxury. It’s like, “Oh, this is due.” So you maybe can’t go back. But with personal work I just
think there’s really no reason you can’t go make it the
best version of the thing that it can be. So, I did go back to Ohio. I painted the house. I shot it in harder light. And this ended up being the
finished image in the series. And this was sort of like a
overview of the entire series, which is called “A House Is Not a Home.” And they’re all self-portraits basically shot in some
kind of suburban backdrop. And they’re sort of playing with the idea of female hysteria. Which for those of you who don’t know it’s a very antiquated diagnoses that was given to the hysteric woman. And sort of the idea of the series is like she sort of becomes
more and more hysteric as the series goes on. And then the final image is the image of the head in the dollhouse. So these photographs
were recently exhibited at the KINDL in Berlin. And the moment of satisfaction was seeing this blue house
in this little corridor and knowing that I actually
went back and painted it. So, the sort of final,
I guess, overview thing we’re gonna talk about is concepts. So what are you trying to say? A few years ago, probably like 2014, I got really into the idea of melting. And I was like, “I want
to see people melting, “I want to see objects melting, “I just want to enter a room
where everything is melting.” And this is my friend Ray. He used to work at the coffee shop that I would spend eight hours
a day at not buying things. Sorry, Ray. And he, I asked him to model one day. I was like, “I have this idea, “I’m gonna make your face
look like it’s melting.” He’s like, “That sounds
cool, count me in.” And he came over and my partner
helped me make this material out of wax paint. So you basically heat it up, you melt it, we dripped it off the side of the table, and then you can actually peel it off and it becomes just like an
object that you can pick up and kind of move anywhere. So we pigmented it like
something close to his skin tone. And then the drips that
are kinda like on his chin were just achieved in post production. So, this was sort of like
my first take on this. And then a couple months
later I was on the Internet and I found these. And I was like, “What are these? “I need them.” They were like $6. I ordered them from Wisconsin. And I couldn’t find them
anywhere else on the internet. I could only find these six. So I’m still convinced that I have the last six
rose candles on earth. And because of that I was
like, “Well, I can’t melt them. “Once I melt them they’re gone.” So what am I gonna do? So I did nothing. And I just kept them
for maybe like a year. And at the time I was assisting
a photographer full time for, I did that for like three years. And I was spending the whole day, I remember it very vividly. I was retouching portraits of lawyers. And I was like six hours in or something. Just fine tuning every
little bag and wrinkle. And I was like, “I just
gotta do something. “I just need to make something.” And my roommate at the time was, he was hanging out in the
kitchen and I went in there and I was like, “Hey, would you be willing “to just sit for a test?” And he’s like, “Sure, I’m not a model.” And I’m like, “No, it’s okay,
no one is, just come in.” So he comes in my bedroom and I have this gallon of fake blood. And I’m like, “I’m just
gonna douse him in it, “see what happens.” But I go to pour it on him
and it’s totally like water. It’s just so thinned out that there’s nothing you can do with it. So I go into the kitchen, I start mixing all this stuff
into it like flour or honey, whatever I can to thicken it. And it starts to look a
lot like this pink wax. So, I clear off a wall. And sort of like strategically place these little drips of wax on him and set the rose candle on top
and sort of made this image. So, this became a series. And I did an open call on Instagram, so most of the people I
didn’t really know well. And they just kind of, the really great thing about this series was that people actually were
showing up at my apartment ready for me to melt wax on their bodies. And I was like, “That is
such dedication, I mean.” So everyone was a little
disappointed, I think, when I had to tell them
that it wasn’t actually wax and it was some weird mixture
I was making in my kitchen. But nonetheless. So, moving on from there, still did not get the
melting out of my system. And started thinking more
about objects melting. So, this was a, this
is a phone, obviously. And I used the same mixture
that I did for the roses, it’s just poured onto the
phone and then the liquefy, I’ve done a little bit of liquefy
on the top as you can see. And then I started thinking
about shoes melting. And I had this, this
is a very bad drawing. You can see that I’m, there’s a reason I use
photography and not a pen. So, I showed this to my partner who makes a lot of
three-dimensional stuff. And she really had to
see the potential in it. But I was like, “I wanna make
heels, stiletto heels melting. “And I don’t want to do it in Photoshop, “I want to be able to pick this thing up “and move it anywhere. “I want to put it on
a stretch of sidewalk, “I want to put it in my bedroom,
I want to put in anywhere.” And so she started working with me. And we used some resin and
some, that’s right, right? Resin, yeah? The resin, we used resin and then we sort of cut into the heels and created these different formations. And this is the finished piece
which was then photographed. So, I guess another thing I
wanted to leave you guys with, especially those of you
who are still students, is that sometimes the
medium can change too. It’s like sometimes the
thing you are trying to show, like maybe you’re not
working in the right medium and that’s okay too. It’s okay for something to
start out as a photo idea and then become a video idea, or then become a sculpture idea. And I think sometimes those
ideas are really overwhelming ’cause we want to be consistent and we have like we are holding ourselves to these standards. But it’s like that’s
sort of like I feel like one of the most liberating
things I’ve learned in the last year. It’s just like it’s okay
to let this switch gears. And so I’m gonna show you
guys another example of that which is this photograph which I shot at my dad’s house, again. And I sort of just draped
myself over this fence and made this self-portrait. And for years I just wasn’t
really sold on this image. I never really liked that
it was in black and white, especially as I started
working in color more. The composition always
felt a little off to me. And there were just things I really wished I could change about it. But the idea of going back and just doing this same exact
thing without any progression really kind of irritated me. So, maybe about a year or so ago I ended up making a video. And this just sort of loops into eternity. And obviously I cut the audio so you couldn’t hear me
moaning and groaning. My dad was actually on a walk for this one and he came home and I
was just like really, it’s embarrassing, right? I’m like, “You can’t see me
in the middle of my process.” Even though he sees it on
the Internet, he’s like, “Yeah, that’s my fence. “Who else do you know with that fence?” But, so the little like trade secret was I actually put a rug under my stomach and then sort of like
went on top of the rug. But it’s still painful. So, everything I’ve
showed you guys thus far is personal work. And so I’m always asked like,
“How do you make money?” So, I thought I would show you guys some client work as well. This is a shoe campaign that, well, this is one image from a shoe campaign that I shot this summer
for a company in Berlin. And it was very fun. They sent me just a large box of shoes. And they were like, “Shoot the
campaign, you do everything.” And I was like, “Oh, that sounds great.” But then I was like, “Oh my god.” I’m styling this thing and I’m
catering it and producing it. And it was definitely
a learning experience, but very fun nonetheless. The other thing that I
hadn’t really accounted for with this shoot is that fall campaigns are shot in the summer,
they’re not shot in the fall. So I had everyone outside in New York City in 98-degree weather in full
fall clothing shooting fall. These shoes are not very
fall though, I will say. And then also the task
of turning everything the right shade of fall. So that was also fun. And we shot these almost
all in Highland Park which is in Queens. So another type of work
that I do is editorial. So it’s like somebody
approaches me with just an idea. And I’m sort of in charge of, I guess, finding a way to illustrate that visually. So this was a image that I made as part of a series for
Refinery29 last year. And it was for Mental
Health Awareness Month. And it was, it was honestly
probably my favorite assignment to date, because I feel
like there is already, I feel like mental health is very entwined in the work that I’m already making. So it was just like, when
they contacted me I was like, “Yes, I need this, I
need this assignment.” So we went out and shot
these kind of around New York and in a studio. And the concepts were
postpartum depression, schizophrenia, and what was the other? There was a, like empathy, like
stigmas around mental health and how we can sort of shift that. And so they didn’t really make me say, “Oh, this photo is depression,
this photo is anxiety,” which was really great. So they, I just sort
of built a body of work around the concept. And then sort of the other piece of how I make a living is licensing. So sort of taking work that I
made for my personal portfolio and syndicating it for other uses. So this was for a novel
by Shirley Jackson. And, you know, it’s funny ’cause my dad’s gonna be really happy about how many times I mentioned him. But he, this was another
one that I shot at his house and he was like, “Get
in the house, Brooke. “What are you doing?” And the neighbors came out. And now he sees this and
he’s like, “I did that. “I made that photo happen.” And I’m like, “Okay, Dad.” So he’s trying to take
credit for stuff now. But, and then this is a editorial. So this is another example of licensing. This was an article, this was about, this was also about mental health. And it was for the German version of, I actually can’t remember the name. Myself I think is the
name of the magazine? So, I always throw this in here. I’m not a super gear-centric person. Most of my setups are very minimal. Maybe I’ll use a fill light here and there if I’m shooting in a
studio or if the, you know, when I shot the shoe campaign it’s like the light was
really uncontrollable. So, I have a Sony RX1, an a7rII, which actually has been revolutionary because I can now use my phone as a remote and get into cactus patches. Before it was like everything
was on a 10-second timer and I would come home with like 80 photos that aren’t usable. And then a tripod and then I edit mostly in
Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. And then obviously the video stuff was, or the video was in Premier. And yeah, and also, to
students, like yeah, you do not need a lot of gear
to go make interesting work. So I wish somebody had told
me that when I was a student. I wish somebody had been like,
you can just go make things. So I’m telling you that now. So, sort of like the summary
I guess of all of this is it’s okay to be repetitive
’cause you will still change. This entire presentation is repetition. I’ve shown you guys six
years of doing the same thing and maybe you get like one
or two good things out of it. Inspiration is everywhere. I remember feeling like
I had to go to Italy and I had to go to all these exotic places like go to New York, not
that New York is exotic to some of you who are from here. But to me it was. And it’s like again, most
of the work I’ve made that I’m most proud of
is from where I grew up. Keep practicing, you’ll still get better. And don’t be afraid to fail. Sometimes this, this is just
like a photo that I took on the street in New York, turns into another one of
my very famous sketches. And then turns into this. A work in progress. And turns into this. So, that is what I will
leave you guys with. Thank you. (audience applauding) – [Man] Hi, I just really love your work. I saw that cactus picture on Instagram like several years ago,
and I told my friend, “She must be really good at Photoshop.” Now I understand you just like really has a very high level for pain tolerance. I was curious about your editing habit, ’cause I noticed from
2016 your color palette just like changed and
the tones are different. I’m just wondering how did you find that and what kind of things helped you? Thanks. – Can you repeat the question
for the people in the back? – Yeah, so the question was that my editing style has changed a lot. And that, sort of like how that happened, like the progression of that. So, I think it happened
probably mostly through trying a lot of different styles. I was really into black and
white photography for a while. And then I sort of
started trying more things with like a sepia tone. And then like textures. And I sort of like went through
all these different phases until I found my thing I guess. And even when I found my
thing, it still has shifted. So like I notice certain patterns and things that I’m attracted to. Like for a while I was really
into really deep blues, and now I’m into cooler, lighter blues. So I think some of that shift is natural. And I wouldn’t, I don’t hold
myself to a color wheel. It’s not like I have a Brooke
DiDonato color spectrum that I put up and I’m like,
“Where are we going on this?” I do notice I don’t, I’m
not into yellow right now, or like ever. So I’m like, maybe that will change. So you might have a couple core
rules I think you stick to. But, yeah, I think it’s
just creating constantly. And you’ll sort of see that
aesthetic progress shift, yeah. – [Woman] Hey, Brooke, thank you so much for coming to talk to us today. My question, you mentioned
about Refinery29 coming to you with that editorial piece. Between editorial and advertising, are they always coming to you? Are you finding them? Can you talk a little
bit about that process? – Yeah, yeah. Well, so, the Refinery29 thing,
and I’m not sure actually if this happened, but in my
mind I always think maybe. I actually had reached
out to them a couple times in the past and had
sent them my portfolio. And I never heard anything. But I was like, “They got it. “Maybe they’re just keeping
me on for the right thing.” So, I do wonder if maybe
those things do happen where it was like they sat
on it for a couple years and then they came to me. But they actually, when
they did approach me they approached me for
a different project. And it was like really
just sort of a strange fit. I can’t remember what it was, but it just didn’t really
make sense I think. And I ended up kinda
like framing a nice email that was like, “Oh, I’m
not sure about this.” And then they were like, “Oh, how do you feel about
Mental Health Awareness Month?” And that’s sort of how that came to be. Same thing with the shoe company. They initially expressed interest, but then it actually
fell through for a year. And when I went to Europe I actually scheduled a meeting with them. And we were able to meet in person and actually talk about ideas. And I think that kind of sealed the deal when we realized we were on the same page and we kinda had the same
vision for the campaign. So it’s a little bit of like
maybe a little bit of luck, like someone comes to you. But I definitely do try to, like I have a list of dream clients and I don’t think you should
be hesitant to reach out to those people and
send them your portfolio and be like, “This is what I do.” Yeah. – Hi.
– Hi. – [Woman] So first quick question, how did you get into that cactus? Because that looked really
impossible without getting hurt. – Well, it was sort of, so what
you can’t see in that photo, should I backtrack? It was like, eh, you
guys are gonna hate me when you’re editing this ’cause you have to take out, I’m sorry. But. Wow, it’s like I just saw my whole life flash before my eyes. Okay, so if you look like over here, it’s like, see how it’s like
a little bit lackluster? Well, this was actually
a whole area of deadness. So what I did was I found a stick actually just like lying around. And I actually felt
sort of bad doing this, but I actually just like
pushed the dead part down more. And then like did one
of these, like a giant, like just a giant leg over. And then from there it was very limiting with what I could do. I actually shot one version
of this without a shirt. And immediately was like,
that’s not happening and put the shirt back on. So, yeah, it was just sort of
like very intricate movements. – [Woman] Nice, and the other question that just came to my mind was
when you say you submitted a, was it a portfolio was your term? – To? – [Woman] To clients. – Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, like a PDF, yeah. – [Woman] Yeah, what do you, ’cause I kinda struggle with this, do you just submit a link, like pretty much email them
with a link to your website? Or you just said you make like a PDF? How do you go about? ‘Cause with the digital age,
you know, some people are like, “Oh, make a book and drop
this off at you know.” But it’s like, I don’t
know, how do you go about? – I think you should make, I mean, I usually make a PDF
and I make it catered to what I’m trying to get from that client. So I wouldn’t send, I don’t know, like I wouldn’t send this
image to certain publications, but I might send it to others
who do more conceptual things. So I think you wanna
kinda gauge your audience. Like if you’re really interested in shooting a certain type of portraiture for a certain magazine
or a certain agency, I think you should cater
within your portfolio and sort of send them the
images that are most relevant. I wouldn’t just like send
someone a catchall website if that makes sense. – [Woman] All right, thank you so much. – You’re welcome. – [Woman] Hi, I think your
works is so beautiful and unique because I can say your
work has your own style. My question is how do you find yourself? And how do you build your
own style in photography? – Was it how do I, how
do you find yourself? – [Woman] Yeah, and how do
you build your own style in photography? – I think kinda like keep your head down and just keep making the
stuff you want to see. Because there, like I didn’t
invent this, you know? There were people who did
surrealism way before me. And there were like tons
of influences in my work that I probably don’t even know about. So I think for me it was just
like keep your head down, like kinda have blinders. And just like keep making
the work you want to make. And then eventually, I
think through sort of like that trial and error that
we were talking about, and like building on those skills and also building on your vision, I think, I guess the aesthetic or like the style, it kinda just reveals itself. But it’s not like, oh, this is what I, I never woke up and was like, “I want to be a surreal
conceptual photographer.” I just knew I was
interested in that medium. So just like practice and
then like kinda checking in and being like, “Where are we?” And then practicing again. And then sort of like checking
in, if that makes sense. – Thank you.
– You’re welcome. – [Man] Hi, Brooke, thanks so
much for your time tonight. I really enjoyed hearing about where your influence comes from a place of personal experience. But sorta to piggyback
off that last question, are there other artists in different media that you’re looking at or other
things that influence you, like you mentioned surrealism? – Yeah, well, Magritte was probably like one of the first artists that
I found where I was like, oh my god, this is, it just like, his work totally blew my mind. I think, you know, I
had a period of images that I didn’t show here where I was really hitting
the bowler cap hard. I was just like, I probably
should have put that in here. But I was just like, “I’m putting a bowler cap
in every photo these days.” But then again, like those
influences do, I think, sort of shift. Gregory Crewdson is another
one that comes to mind that was like, I sort of love
how much nothing is happening in his images, but they’re
still so suspenseful, you know? You’re sort of just like placed in the middle of this storyline. And they’re all very familiar. Like they’re really familiar locations. But there’s something so
otherworldly about them. And I think that’s something
that I’ve definitely tried to bring into my work where
it’s like in everyday sit, like a cactus patch is
not necessarily exotic. I mean, I guess it is,
depending on where you’re from. But it’s like we know what it is. And so taking those things and kinda like shifting
the perception of them has been really interesting to me. – [Man] I’m curious about
licensing your personal work for commercial use and do you license
anything in your portfolio? Or are there things that are off limits? Do you experience any tension given that you show in fine art venues? How do you navigate that? – So, I do have certain
things that are off limits. I started working, I basically
handled all of my licensing on my own for like five years. And that was really great because it just teaches you the language and it teaches you sort of like pricing, like all these things. And that was great too
because I also handled, I was able to say no to things. Like I was just like, “Nope, that’s not, we’re not doing that,
we’re not licensing that.” Now I work with an agency in
Paris who helps me out with it. But it took a long time for me to build that
relationship where it was like I trust these people and I trust that they’re gonna make sure that whatever use is done
with these images is tasteful. I still do put limits on some of them. Like anything that I sell
as a print at a gallery or something I limit their
usage to only editorial. So, you know, and it’s funny
too because every year, I think when you make new work, when it’s like fresh in your mind it’s really precious to you, right? Like you’re like no one can touch this. We can’t make money off of
this, it’s so beautiful. And it’s funny ’cause then
by the next year I’m like, “Eh, yeah, sell it,” you know? So, it’s kinda funny how that
shifts as you keep, as you, I mean, you’re young, you’re
making new work all the time, so that idea kinda, you
let go a little, so. But, yeah, certain things I,
certain things I don’t, so. – [Host] Okay, thank you so much, Brooke. – Yeah, thank you. (audience applauding)

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