A day at a mansion with Brooke

When I first heard about this workshop it was back in the middle of 2014. The date was the 13th and 14th of Dec and I immediately dismissed any thought of being able to race off to another state at the most frantic time of the year. But due to a major change of circumstances (my injury) when the opportunity popped up on her Facebook page it suddenly occurred to me that it may just be a possibility!. By the time I had checked out if it was possible the spot was gone and I realised how badly I really wanted to do the workshop and also how badly I needed some positive inspiration at a time when nothing was very pleasurable, least of all trying to shoot. I emailed Brooke and asked to be put on the waitlist for a cancellation and tried my best to forget about it. Middle of Nov and two weeks after my leg was operated on I woke up and checked my emails...there waiting for me was an email from Brooke Shaden offering me a spot in the Sunday workshop! It was seriously like waking up on Xmas morning with a full Santa sack! I grabbed the spot and decided to work out how I was going to get there and back later!

Once I'd secured my spot I was introduced to the other people doing the workshop and particularly the other two from Adelaide. Heidi, I recognised from my Facebook page and Danae, a local artist, were all going to be heading to the area where the mansion was the night before and we all arranged to stay in the same hotel. I had worked out that driving to Melbourne was going to be the only option so Warren (my hero), Dani and I decided to make a long weekend of it with two nights in Melbourne and then two in Geelong.

The drive, like all long drives, was a journey I needed...not only was it a timely escape from the previous two months of pain, there was such huge excitement about doing a Brooke Shaden workshop that  I seriously thought I might burst on the way there!.

For those who have no idea what I.m talking about, Brooke Shaden is a fine art photographer from the US who has been featured on Creative Live for the last few years and has shared her passion and techniques with a world audience. She is not much older than my oldest son and has been a shining beacon of inspiration with her amazing photography and her passion for storytelling through her work. She is also a fabulous teacher! I had already decided that if there was one thing I could do to help my growth as an artist and my business in 2014 then this was it! A couple of people mentioned that perhaps I didn't really need to do this, having been in the business for a long time myself, but I find that I learn a lot from young photographers who have such a fresh, uninhibited way of shooting and I particularly love Brooke;s approach to her art so....

So after a lovely couple of days in Melbourne catching up with dear friends, on the Sunday, Heidi, Danae and I headed off pretty early for the hour long drive to Barwon Park Mansion, with a car full of camera gear and crutches! Danae was on crutches too and luckily Heidi was 100% fit and able to carry all our gear :). We only got lost once, arriving a little late and after crashing and banging our way up the heritage staircase we had no choice but to make quite an entrance as the cripples from Adelaide! Brooke made us all feel very comfortable, very quickly and we settled in for some serious work with her. Having watched a lot of videos and tutorials I had to keep pinching myself that this was for real and keep reminding myself to live in the moment! To add...the location was in a magnificent heritage mansion in the middle of nowhere with an abundance of beautiful natural light and a resident ghost (apparently). There were two other fantastic AIPP photographers there from Melbourne, Vicky Bell and Robyn Miller and six people who had travelled all the way from Queensland!

Brooke spent the morning teaching us her methods of storytelling and showed us how she puts her work together. We explored the house and then settled in the servants quarters where Brooke shot her artwork with her model who had come with her from America.

After we had a break for a delicious vegetarian lunch we split up into three groups of five and then had a hour at each of three stations around the house.At each station we had a model and a wardrobe of gowns to shoot our concepts. This allowed each person around 10 mins with the model and also plenty of assistance. The hour in each area went lightening fast and there was a collective crazy creative energy for three hours straight with Brooke on hand assisting and checking what we were doing, and Kelly, her assistant, making sure everyone was well hydrated. 

Danae and I against all odds and made endless trips up and down the staircase...we even managed to climb up to the mezzanine floor in the barn (station3), which was quite an achievement, and for the most part the injuries in our group, (of which there were some pretty serious ones) were forgotten about, or rather pushed to the back of our minds! It was an awe inspiring experience!

Once finished we headed back to the drawing room and watched Brooke put the images she had taken earlier together, to create her artwork. We were all pretty exhausted by then, so we all relaxed as we watched the story emerge and become an artwork in its own right.

It is a weird feeling to be exhausted, inspired and buzzing all at the same time but by the time we all finished that was the collective feeling of the group. I emerged out of the drawing room to find Warren and Dani exploring the house and managed to get a couple of shots of Dani in the house as well. 

As we headed back to the hotel I was still having to pinch myself that the day had really happened...that Brooke and her family had actually come all the way out to Aus, (and NZ), shared all that she does, helped all of us get the most out of our day. and introduced us to a group of like minded artists who Im sure will keep in contact with.

It took a wee while to get through the images from the day but here are a few of them.

Many thanks to our lovely models -  Jessica Anne Cogan, Peta Robinson, and Steph Pez from the US, who did a fabulous job and also to  Danae Thyssen, Heidi Johns, Tyler Grace and Kiarn Hill who I had the pleasure of shooting with.

Gentle Breeze

Gentle Breeze



In Between

In Between