“If you define yourself by what other people think of you and their opinions, you can come undone. You can give up your whole passion or dream – just one person’s opinion.”
A few weeks ago, someone told me something that I haven’t been able to get off my mind.
I was having a conversation with a friend about Brooke Shaden and her work, and my friend told me that she knows two people who know me and my work and think it’s great, but they also think I try to copy Brooke.
It’s kind of like when you have a lot of people giving you great feedback and leaving amazing comments on your work, then there’s one person who says something negative and it’s the negative thing that sticks with you. I found that that comment hindered me a little. Every time I think of an idea, I start asking myself “would that look like something Brooke would do?”, and when I get to editing I think “no, these colors are too Brooke.”
And that’s not good. I know that Brooke would tell me to just do whatever I want. I also remember once, at one of Lindsay Adler’s talks in Dubai with GPP, she said that she could have a photographer with her shooting the same model in the same location with the same makeup and wardrobe, and it wouldn’t be the same because each one of them has a different voice. And it’s funny because I actually did an image that looked SO similar to one of Lindsay Adler’s images, without realizing it.
I posted a picture on my Facebook page of a print I was sending to South Africa for an exhibition, and Lindsay commented saying something like “that looks like something I’ve done!” But she was super sweet about it and never made it sound like I was trying to copy her, and she even said it’s a great image.
I didn’t shoot this image having Lindsay’s in mind. I even remember when Lindsay brought it up I felt awful and apologized a million times. Cause I knew I’d seen her image before I did mine, I just wasn’t consciously thinking about it.
And these things happen and it’s okay. I’m not trying to rip anyone off. I’m not trying to be someone else. I’m not trying to be Brooke. Do I aspire to be like her? Definitely. I would give anything to be as loving and caring as she is, to see the world as a magical place, to believe in better things. If that’s me copying her, then it doesn’t bother me at all. But when it comes to our work, I will say that I definitely am heavily influenced by Brooke and I believe that it’s mainly because Brooke got me started. It was her workshop that made me realize that this is what I want to do, that this is what I’ve been looking for to express myself. I started doing squares because when she demoed an edit in her workshop and we followed along, we did everything the same way she did, including square crops and it stuck with me. I loved it. And I also thought “hey, this is awesome for instagram and it’s gonna keep my images consistent!”
I’ve always been drawn to darker themes so I think that could be a reason for people to think I’m trying to copy her, but even if you look at some of my older work (before the workshop) you’d see that it was quite dark and almost gothic, and somewhat disturbed.
But the main point is: I’m still growing, I’m still learning. This is not it for me. What you see now is probably not what I’ll be doing 5 years from now. My style will change and evolve. I’m influenced and inspired by so many people. And I remember Sara Lando telling me something like our work is kind of like a collection of everyone and everything that inspires us. You take inspiration from people, from things, from places, and that becomes you. That becomes your own voice.
This is an image I shot in May. I was playing around with color, not knowing exactly where I was going with it. I stopped working on it for a while, thinking this should just go in my scraps folder. But then I did go back to it and played around with color some more and just loved it. I was hesitant about posting it because like I said, I started thinking the colors are too Brooke. I usually prefer cold tones with lots of blues but the warm tones just worked perfectly for this, so I decided to keep it the way it is 🙂
2014-2017 Thoughts amani alshaali brooke shaden conceptual photography fears fine art photographer fine art photography friends influence inspiration lindsay adler photography self acceptance thoughts