Sunday, January 13, 2019

Create Your Story

 "Shelter" - image by Brooke Shaden (more of her images here)

I have admired Brooke Shaden's fine art photography since I first found her on Flickr about 10 years ago.   When I starting posting to Instagram, I was happy to see she had also an account and started following her there.  She has offered photography classes and workshops in the past, and in late December she posted about a two-week, online, "Create Your Story Challenge" she was organizing for January 1 - 14th.  The registration fee was pay-what-you-can, with 30% of the donations going towards a charity established by Shaden that teaches photography to victims of human trafficking.  She hoped to get 1,000 people registered and I decided to be one of those 1,000 people.

Tomorrow is the last day, and it has most definitely been challenging, and much more time consuming than I anticipated (although, I'm not really sure what I anticipated).  On January 1st, we received a downloadable workbook, and four videos demonstrating Shaden's creative process for her work, and each day since then we have received an email with questions for that day and a social media prompt.  There were also some "create" days, followed by "analyze and feedback" days, and three live video chats with Shaden spread over the two weeks.   I was at home for the first two days of the challenge so there was time available to devote to this, but then when I went back to work, I felt pressured for time to complete the exercises and do justice to the process, and despite my best intentions, quickly fell behind.   I learned during the first live video chat that I was not the only participant struggling to keep up; the good thing is that we can take a long as we want to complete the challenge, and the hope is that we will continue the practice after the two weeks are over.  

One benefit I have found is that because we are encouraged to devote part of each day to thinking and acting creatively, I have been inspired to shoot more, which is definitely one of the things I hoped to achieve by doing the course.   On New Year's Day, I asked my neighbour, Natalie, if she would come out with me to take a few photos - I had some vintage furs I wanted to document as they were disintegrating, and although it was quite cold, we had no snow, so it was as good a day for an outdoor shoot as we would likely get in January.

I wore an ankle-length blue-green velvet dress I purchased from a friend's vintage store several years ago, a fox fur hat (from a consignment store), and two vintage fur pieces that I rescued from being thrown away, which, sadly, are shedding and falling apart.  I had no particular theme or inspiration other than the pieces themselves, which have an old-school, Hollywood style glamour which contrasted nicely with the back alley/parking lot location.

I haven't worn my glasses for the last couple of shoots I've done; I felt they were out of place with the outfits I was wearing.  I noticed that I definitely feel more vulnerable without them (most likely because I can see two feet in front of me without them).

There is an empty lot near my house that is being dug up, and I thought it might make an interesting backdrop for some photos but I ended up not liking any of them except this one.  I am pretty sure the  coat is from the 1940's, based on the shape and design details.  Sadly, it has large splits in the side and the back caused by the fur drying out, which are not really noticeable until you move.  I love the  warm, rich colour of the fur, and the gorgeous sleeve detail.

detail of the fitted inner sleeve and vintage elbow-length gloves

The other piece I wanted to photograph was this lush fox fur stole, rescued from landfill, but unfortunately so dry that the slightest shake releases a cloud of white fur, and the pleated satin is badly stained.  I hope it led an exciting life before coming to me.   

Natalie caught a shot of the back view of the dress as I sprinted across the parking lot to get my coat when we were finished.

What's behind the door?  Hopefully good stuff!

The questions I've had to answer during this challenge have required some soul-searching: some examples include: "How is your life different now from what you thought it would be?", "Would the child that you were recognize the adult you've become?", "After you die, what do you want people to remember about you?" and "What do you stand for?"  They are questions that require time and effort to answer and I will continue to work my way through the challenge in the weeks to come.  I also hope to ride the wave of creative inspiration this process has initiated and push myself beyond my comfort zone.  I am excited to see what 2019 brings, but more importantly, I'm interested in what I will bring to it.

What are your hopes for this year?  Do you have projects you've been putting off, or dreams that have remained unfulfilled that you are determined to see come to fruition in 2019?


  1. Such a fun shoot. You look gorgeous in that velvet dress.

  2. What a shame about that stunning 1940s coat! It is INCREDIBLE!!! I've never seen anything like it, the colour, the design. Gorgeous.

    Your photos turned out fantastic.

    I absolutely love the idea of this class and how it has pushed your creative boundaries and really made you think. I'll be saving some of those questions to ponder myself.

    Thanks for the provocative post Shelley!


    1. Thanks for the supportive comments on the post. The questions do require you to sit with them for a while but I am enjoying the process of answering them.

  3. The sleeves on that fur coat SLAY me. sad that it is disintegrating, but that is a bonus of using actual biodegradable materials. Back to the earth they go.

    You look incredible in these pictures! What a great way to record you (being vulnerable - I know that feeling when you don't have your glasses) and the garments.

    I'm awed by your course - it sounds intense and soul-searching. I'm feeling somewhat of an inner push to do something, but I'm not sure what that is yet. I ponder.

    1. I'm sad about the condition of the coat too, but if it was in perfect shape, I wouldn't have got it for $30. I did feel very old Hollywood glam while wearing it. Good luck with the pondering...

  4. This course was such a great idea for kicking of the new year. Look what came out of it - these awesome shots! You are so good in front of the camera. I suspect that these question are meant to dwell on, but even if this is the only outcome, plus that IG photo of you at the window, the course was well worth it. I love Shaden's work. I look forward to seeing what's next!

    1. The questions are definitely meant to inspire some deep digging. I'm hoping there will be more shoots although it is now so cold that doing anything outside is out of the question. I'm excited to see what's next too!

  5. I think that this course will be really inspiring and make your life and creativity being enhanced and shine!
    And I love the pictures you've taken to show us those stunning fur pieces (woww, those sleeves!), You look Gorgeous, love the Hollywood glamour vibe and the evocation of all the interesting places and events you can imagine!. You totally Rock!

    1. Thanks Monica! I did feel like an old school movie star while wearing that outfit, especially the coat. The sleeves are fabulous, aren't they?

  6. Love the '40s fur. Perhaps it could be repaired and restored by a furier. So elegant!

  7. I'm a long-time fan of Brooke Shaden, I watch her whenever she's on Creative Live and even purchased one of her workshops from there, but I never seem to have much time for experimentation and play :-( Boo. Stupid work.

    And like you, I purchased an online workshop that was running for the month of January, lessons and assignments every day...and on January 4 I learned I needed to move by February 1. Gah. Needless to say, I only got through about half of the workshop with the group. Boo again. I can go back and continue at my own pace now that the move is behind me, but it's just not the same as doing it with your cohorts.

    It's amazing you found that fox wrap in the landfill! And I really love that "Entrance to 2019" sign, what a great find!


  8. Great outfits and photos. Love this challenge you accepted.