Eddie | Spotlight Profile

I was asked to photograph Eddie Caswell, he is an actor that needed Spotlight Profile updating. This was a new type of project for me, in the past the only performers that I have photographed are DJ’s like Radio One DJ Kutski:




And other hard dance DJ’s like MKN for their promo packs, these are images which are used for all their up & coming gigs and events:



Spotlight has different specifics though so I did some research before the shoots.



Spotlight: #1 UK Casting Calls Website

What’s Spotlight?

Spotlight - Leading UK Casting WebsiteIn the UK, aspiring actors who are serious about pursuing this career must be members of two websites/organizations: Equity (an actors’ union, more on it here) and Spotlight. Even though this is not required per se, if you’re not a member of these, then you’ll be viewed as an amateur.



How To Create The Perfect Spotlight Profile

Danielle Tarento is a freelance producer and casting director whose recent musicals have included Dogfight, Titanic, Mack And Mabel, and Parade. Here, she shares with Spotlight her tips for creating a great Spotlight profile.

Every actor knows that if they aren’t on Spotlight then they might as well not be in the business. It is the best artist directory in the world… and I’m not just saying that because I’m writing this blog for them! Whist it’s career suicide not to have a Spotlight page, just having one isn’t enough either. You must make the most of all the information fields that your page allows so that casting directors have the best possible chance of finding you.





Lots of really useful information on these sites, the main points that I noted in regards to the type of images that actors have on there are:

  • Portrait not landscape
  • 10-15 images
  • Mainly colour, only a couple in Black & White
  • Headshots – shoulders up
  • True to the person – they must look like who they are
  • A mixture of light & scenes to show how they look in different situations




Two separate shoots were to be done, the first at Eddy’s home before he went on holiday. This was to get some relaxed images of him in various outfits and the second shoot was to be done in the studio once they came back from holiday while he had a tan. In all, a mixture of relaxed & character shots in mixed lighting situations was required.




Eddie lives in a beautiful little house in Overton, small cosy rooms full of character and tiny windows. I used the room that had the most space and best light as creatively as possible. There was only one window so this was going to be the only light source. Not wanting to use flash because the studio shoot was going to be using studio strobes and we needed natural light images as a contrast. Ideally we could have taken some outside but it hadn’t stopped raining for days so that wasn’t an option.

The window was fine in this case, if I was photographing more than one person then it wouldn’t have been enough light. I had to use a very wide aperture to let as much light in as possible.

Eddie had chosen different outfits so I used the light and things in the room to compliment each outfit.

I have added a few images from each of the ‘looks’ below with a brief explanation to go with each:

Standing at a 90 degree angle to the window gave strong shadows on the face which worked well for the shirt and braces, the contrast of light and dark works suits a powerful character.



With his ‘Grandad clothes’ I moved a desk to near the window so that he was still being lit by the window but i was able to put a lamp on in the background to create an ambient light. This worked well with these clothes and gave the feel that you were in a cosy living room.



For his shirt and cap set I had him leaning over the banister on a 45 degree angle to the window. We were going for a rugged, workman, truck driver vibe for this one.



Then we removed his cap and I shot down the wall while he was looking out the window, which could be portraying an old man in his country home.



Lastly, we went for a detective / chief / sergeant look, he was standing almost face on to the window which I was shooting from and this gave more of an even light on his face, could be in an office environment.




This was really enjoyable to do, I didn’t know where we were going to be shooting until I arrived and had a look round to see where would work best. This was quite a small time frame with only 1 hour to get a varied selection of different looks. These looks could have been enhanced with further editing but that’s not what’s required for the Spotlight profile, just clean images in different light and surroundings. I think we achieved this really well with the location and time we had.



I went for the same approach as the shoot that we did at his home. He brought along the clothes he wanted and then I chose backdrops and lighting that i felt suited the character of the clothes. The lighting set up was kept simple, for all of it i used one strobe from different angles, mainly directly in front of him and raised high or off at a 45 degree angle. Apart from with the white backdrop which i used one strobe directed at it and one directly in front of Eddy.




We completed the studio session in 1.5 hours and again it was really fun to do, Eddie was brilliant to work with. It was a refreshing experience because I generally have to choreograph adults positions but with Eddie being an actor he was at ease running through different expressions and stances.

I will continue to work with Eddie with the selection and upload of his images for the Spotlight Profile and I look forward to seeing the final result.

This was a really rewarding project, I learnt a lot about what is required in creating a professional actor portfolio, utilising lack of space and light, quick thinking with limited time and using studio lighting for varying looks. I really hope I get the chance to work with more actors in the future.

NEC | The Photography Show 2018

Third year attending The Photography Show with Kamila and every time we go we stay for longer and it still isn’t enough time!


We travelled down on friday night and stayed in the IBIS Styles Hotel which is just a few minutes walk from the NEC. The hotel is lovely, we had food and drinks in the restaurant after we arrived…. and were up early ready to get to the Show as soon as it opened!

It was really busy, hundreds of eager faces to test and buy all the new gadgets on offer. We had quite a tight schedule regarding the talks that we wanted to attend so it didn’t leave much time for browsing on the saturday.

I didn’t take a DSLR because they both need their sensors cleaning:

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I didn’t have any idea that they were that bad until I was photographing this flower against the light backdrop…. HECK!!!

I had my Samsung S8 and the intention to either buy a compact camera for vlogging or get a Gimbal for my mobile. During both days at the show I took mainly videos on my phone so most of the images in this blog aren’t great quality because they are screen grabs from the vids.


Yearly photo in front of the Nikon sign of course!


Saturday 10:30am Helen Bartlett – Great Family Photos and How To Take Them

This was our first talk on the Canon Live Stage. Helen has run a successful family photography Business for 14 years. She specialises in Black & White Photographs and really tries to capture life and personality in each of her images. She discussed what photos meant to her, the ones that she treasures most from her childhood were the ones that tell a story and documented that time not the staged photos. This is what she has focused her business around and she gave us an insight into how she does it.

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11:00am Tom Barnes – Portraits Under Pressure

Tom was on the Live Stage and was demonstrating how quickly you have to work in a commercial setting, sometimes only getting up to a minute with the model to get the photograph. He was really funny, very honest, and it was interesting to find out how he would work with a model in such little time. His lighting set-up consisted of 4 lights (2 facing the model from behind and 2 at the front that he can use together or separately) and a black & white reversible backdrop, this all had to be set up ready to go as soon as model arrives because he explained how they often come with a PR and they will give you limited time so you have to be ready to shoot from the get-go.

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11:30am Simeon Quarrie – Turn Your Passion Into A Living

I attended Simeon’s talk last year so I was keen to see him again. He always gives a great talk and engages with the audience by asking what we want to know. He is full of enthusiasm, loves his job and is passionate about bringing his visions to life.


He talked about how creating behind the scenes videos increased his social media followers and his client base. People like to know what goes on and what they are paying for.


AND I finally got to meet Helen Sloan, the head photographer for Game Of Thrones.


I am a massive fan of the series and was so disappointed when I only caught the end of her talk last year so I was keen to get a front row seat this time. When she finished I managed to speak to her and asked if she would consider someone (me lol) for work experience. She explained that unfortunately HBO won’t allow it, because of the nature of the filming they are in dangerous scenes & sets. They aren’t prepared to insure anyone that assists on work experience….. GUTTED! But hey, you don’t get if you don’t ask do you! She took my details and said that if anything else comes up or if she knows of anyone that needs a hand on set closer to me she will pass on my details.



The 2 days at the show were fantastic, we always have so much fun, I’d love to be there everyday it’s on…. maybe next year! 😀

I came home poor but a happy woman with lots of lovely goodies, backdrops, baby props and blankets…. and a gimbal for my mobile!


…… Looking forward to next years show already!!

Building A Website 2018


As part of our Creative Futures module we are required to build a website, which I originally found slightly frustrating because I have already been working on my business website using WordPress this past year. It’s not the best layout but functions really well and I get a nice steady stream of traffic through it:


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By making sure all my pages had lots of key wording throughout and building up my Google reviews I have manage to nestle my site at the top of Page 1 on the Google search if you type in:

Newborn Photographer Wrexham



Also if you replace ‘Newborn’ with Baby / Wedding / Child / Family etc I am in the first few listed on the first page.

For the website requirement for our Creative Futures Module it was suggested that we build a website using Squarespace or Webflow. Squarespace is similar to WordPress but has a more user-friendly system. Webflow is more advanced and allows you full creative rein to build your website from scratch with a blank canvas. Both interested me but I was feeling nervous to change anything, I don’t know enough about moving my domain onto a new site and hosting.

First I thought about building a Squarespace site how i need it with the commerce included and then have it running alongside my WordPress site for a while and then phase it out to just leave the Squarespace site….. but this doesn’t seem the right way to do it so I’ve abandoned that idea.

Nerves aside, I decided that i needed to rebuild my WordPress site and hope that it doesn’t affect my position in the Google search. Apart from the un-inspiring layout it also doesn’t allow me to have commerce on it which I need because I am currently using a sub-site for my bookings (perfectmomentsphotography.bigcartel.com) 




STEP 1 – Upgraded from the PREMIUM to the BUSINESS WordPress package. This allows you to buy WordPress themes from places like Themeforest, Siteground, themisle which can be installed and customised. After looking through a mountain of live demos on those sites I couldn’t really find any that had the LOOK that i wanted. I then began to look at current websites from other photographers & videographers and fell I love with this one from Indiego Photography. I love their wedding videos they are so full of nostalgic loveliness I wish I had them to video my wedding! Their website has such a simple sophisticated clean look, the full screen images draw you in and I like this layout where the images do the talking rather than lots of distracting icons:


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They have used one of Flothemes templates, which are quite costly in comparison to other sites:

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$249 OUCH!


As much as I love their templates i couldn’t afford to buy one after upgrading my website subscription to the business plan. I needed to find a template that was similar and perhaps I could customise it to look & function how I needed it.

This was time-consuming, I spent about a full day just going through different live demos of themes on different websites. I also looked at articles discussing the best templates for photography sites:

51 Best Photography WordPress Themes 2018



One that cropped up on quite a few articles was the Divi theme:

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This one has a builder plugin and a user-friendly interface and looked really straightforward to use. The only issue I had with this was that it was $89 a year or $249 for a lifetime subscription, both more than what I wanted to pay.

Eventually I decided on the Oshine Theme from Envato, it had really good reviews and only cost $59 which is considerably cheaper than the others that I had looked at.


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Apart from the price the reason this theme appealed to me was because it comes with a builder plugin allowing you to fully customise each page. Starting with a blank page you build it up using sections then adding columns which you can then fill with text, images, buttons etc.



WordPress has really good online help, and they reply within a few minutes. They became my best friend whilst building my website. They recommended that I use a plugin which allows you to create a landing page so anyone that comes across your website won’t see what’s going on while you’re building it. I was able to put all my contact details on the landing page and let people know what was happening. Also by doing this, announcing a new website was coming soon, the pressure was on! I really didn’t want my website to be down for long so I set myself a deadline:



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Every step was like baby steps and took ages because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. When I uploaded the theme there was plugins that had to be uploaded for it to work and even though I followed the instructions the Slider plugin wouldn’t install, and I spent hours trying to figure out why. Eventually the WordPress team had to step in and fix it their end.


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After the installations were completed I turned to YouTube tutorials to help me get started. There is endless videos on how to use WordPress but only a few that concentrated on the Oshine theme and the Tatsu builder plugin:




I wanted the home page to have a full width slider and minimal distracting menu, options etc. With the slider revolution plugin you have full control over the layout, appearance and functions. This was difficult to understand, I spent hours making a change then refreshing my website which was on another tab to see if it had made any difference….definitely not the fastest way to do it! Again I turned to YouTube and found this tutorial on how to use the slider:



This really helped me and I put together a slider that had changing images with text overlayed and a button with a click function scrolling to the next part of the page:




I liked it initially but felt it was still too clunky with all the text over the images, plus I didn’t have a logo and wasn’t sure where that was going to go. Not wanting to spend any longer on the slider, it had already consumed a day of trial and error i moved on to creating the rest of the site.

Time Spent:

21st 9:30am – 3:30am (18 Hours)
22nd 4pm – 2am (10 Hours)
23rd 7am-8am, 9am-10:30am, 1pm-midnight (13.5 Hours minus 1.5 hours for errands = 12 Hours)
24th 9am- 11:30am (2.5 Hours)
TOTAL HOURS – 42.5 for the basic rebuild (there was still some tidying up to do, logo to be created & seo to master)



Getting to grips with the general dashboard of the Oshine Theme, figuring out what all the menu options meant and how they worked. It was a big experiment of clicking on something to see what it did then turning it off again.

Unlinking the pages that were from my old website to replace with the new ones that I was creating with the TATSU Builder plugin. This took me ages, my own fault because when I had created my original website I had bumbled through it and made lots of mistakes. I had Pages that weren’t actually pages they were categories and my blog posts were attached to the wrong pages. It was a

Choosing a selection of images for the slider on the home page, you only have a few seconds to appeal to a visitor the images were really important. They had to represent the style of photography that I offer.




In this YouTube video he explains why content is so important in getting your website noticed by Google. Using the advice from this video I put together a blog about top tips when choosing a newborn photographer, after I posted this my site was sitting higher in the searches. It was filled full of keywords relating to what people search for when looking for a newborn photographer and questions relating to that.



I plan to keep my website refreshed with several blogs each month choosing relevant content for my client base.


Yoast Plugin

This plugin highlights what you need to change in the written elements of your website so that it appeals to search engines. Taglines, Meta data & the content of your pages all have to work together. Also it flags up issues in the readability of your pages, it also makes suggestions on what to change.

It’s quite a lengthy process if you have a lot of content over multiple pages to go through and optimise each one using this plugin. I still haven’t finished the whole website, I just concentrated on the Homepage, Newborn & Wedding page but I will continue to work on the rest. Definitely would recommend this plugin to anyone wanting to improve their seo.


Setting out to build my website again from scratch was such a nerve-wracking project and not something to be taken lightly. As you can see from the hours spent on the build and then the seo it is already over 60 hours and will continue. I had to shut myself off from everything else to complete this, learning new software is time-consuming with trial and error being paramount to the learning curve. This website also needed to reflect me and my style so that took some thought in choosing the colours, fonts & layouts which worked for me.

I am extremely pleased with what I have made, no doubt I will keep tweaking and adding but that’s just the nature of what we do. As it stands if I had paid someone to build this for me I would be over the moon with it so I’m happy that i have fulfilled the brief!


Film Crit | The Shape Of Water


I went into this film without watching the trailer or reading any reviews at all. I’m so glad I did because I think if I knew the plot beforehand it would have spoilt this one a bit. It was great to experience surprise and this was the general pattern of my thoughts throughout the whole film:

“what??…….oh wow……..ah……..what’s that??……why are they doing that!…….omg…… really!……no waaaaaaay……….ew!……….yes!!! 

There really was so much going on and so many hidden ties and references I think I’d really need to watch it again to absorb more.

It was set in America during the 1950’s, lots of references to black and white inequality – the black couple not being allowed in the cafe, separate seating on the bus, the hosing on the news, the Boss’s attitude.

In the beginning the pace was really slow but not in a boring way, there was lots of puzzle pieces being laid out.

Beautiful cinematography, lots of low-key lighting, dark moody, green tone throughout. There was water in almost every scene – the opening scene, bath, boiling eggs, rain, cleaning, bathroom, tank, glasses of water for pills, the spy meets in the rain. There was also an emphasis on human sounds – footsteps and chewing etc and clocks – time running out.

Even though most of what happened was wrong and evil it was balanced with the gentle approach and the love of two beings.

Elisa was different, mute, innocent, kind, lonely & lost. She was drawn to the fish / merman / God perhaps because it seen her for who she truly was and not her flaws.





What shocked me – Elisa masturbating in the bath (….not quite sure there was a need? well obviously there is a need haha but not necessarily in this film), the cat’s head being eaten and Elisa having sexual relations with the merman/fish.

What I loved – The lighting and attention to detail. When she was first making contact with the merman/fish with the eggs & music, The look of pure content when the neighbour opened the bathroom door to find her cuddling the merman/fish. The gurgly noise the merman/fish made when he was happy.


If I was to sum it up in one word it would be difficult – WEIRD is definitely on the tip of my tongue but as strange as the story was, the way it was shot and directed I have to say it was simply – BEAUTIFUL! The Director Guilllermo del Toro is a genius!

Day 4 | Madame Yevonde

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I took lots of pictures and made notes on my phone throughout Ron’s talk, but to my utter devastation my iPhone suffered WHITE SCREEN OF DEATH the following week. Resulting in loss of all my pictures, videos and notes. In this blog I will try to remember as much as i can but apologies if there is some slightly sketchy areas!



Dr R M Callender, FRPS


Following national service with the Cameronians, Ron Callender joined the Lighting laboratory of the GEC Research Centre for ten years but moved to Unilever Research in 1964 until his retirement in 1990.  As a scientist, his speciality was to devise photographic methods for the assessment of company hair, skin and dental products. 

Ron is a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and as a Fellow of the British Institute of Professional Photography, he was elected President in 1975, following service on qualification and education committees. 

On retirement, in 2004 Ron received a PhD for research on the experiments of two 19th photographic pioneers but with a qualification in archaeology and funding from the lottery, he subsequently directed a (successful) quest for the remaining traces of the Scottish gold rush of 1869. For recreation, he prospects for gold and photographs standing stones in the UK. 

This talk by Dr Ron Callendar was about the life of Yevonde Middleton, a friendship and admiration that has led to Ron’s need to educate the world about her.

Yevonde Middleton, born in London 1893 attended schools in London, Belgium and France before starting an apprenticeship with portrait photographer Lallie Charles. After completing this she went on to run her own studio in London, she began to build up a portfolio of wealthy individuals and her work was featured in publications such as Tatler and Sketch.

As her success grew, she employed an assistant called Kathy who left after some time and was then replaced by Anna, both who Ron became friends with over the years since meeting Yevonde.

She definitely knew what she wanted and how to get it, I enjoyed listening to Ron tell how she travelled to Ethiopia with Anna to photograph the Emperor! No appointment was made, she just turned up and said she was there to photograph him and was turned away. This didn’t deter her, she continued to return day after day until she was granted 15 minutes with him. In her 15 minutes she got the photos she came for and ended up staying over an hour discussing cats, something he was very fond of.


NPG x29840; Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia by Madame Yevonde


Yevonde was also a pioneer of colour photography in the 1930’s. The ‘Virex’ process invented by Dr Spencer was a picture taken through 3 filters, developed via 3 membranes and then assembled together for the final print.

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Her experimentation with colour photographs had mixed reactions, some people didn’t like it but eventually she began to receive requests from magazine companies for colour images. Her ‘Goddess’ colour collection was published by the Observor.

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Dr Ron Callendar devoted time and effort to put together an exhibition of her work, this wasn’t an easy task because even in her late years Yevonde still wanted full control of everything. After many hiccups an exhibition was brought together at the Royal Photographic Society to celebrate her 80th Birthday.



I really enjoyed this talk by Ron, delivered in such a heart warming fashion, I felt like I was sat listening to one of my Grandad’s old stories. It was difficult to write notes because I just wanted to sit and just listen. This was an inspiring talk about an incredible woman with sheer determination to succeed as a photographer of the elite. Before this I had never heard of her before so it was fantastic to learn about her as a pioneering photographer of the early 1900’s.

**All Images in this blog unless stated were taken from our Creative Futures Module on Moodle**

Day 3 | Digital Futures BBC Childrens




SPEAKER | Mario Dubois


I took some pictures and made notes on my phone throughout Mario’s talk, but sadly my iPhone suffered WHITE SCREEN OF DEATH the following week. Resulting in loss of all my pictures, videos and notes. In this blog I have put together a brief summary of the talk from Mario.


Like most people we have seen this week at Creative Futures, Mario didn’t have a clear idea of what he wanted to do.  It evolved over time with ever-changing digital world.

Mario started off in the arts department at the BBC, here he has the opportunity to apply for other jobs internally. He ended up working with the actors from Red Dwarf and this then led on to other projects. After moving to London he worked on projects, learning how to make live shows with the arts. Dragons Den & Doctor Who between 1999-2000 and then moved on to work with the BBC New Media Team when the internet was becoming more interesting.

This is when he went from TV Producer to start working in the digital land, looking to create a better way of connecting with the audience. The internet gave a more personal response and they were able to engage with the viewers to find out more about their wants and needs, therefore providing better content.

There are opportunities to get involved with the BBC, you can pitch ideas to them and they can provide funding for that which is a great help to independent producers.


Summary from Mario

“Think about what your passions and interests are, where can you best find areas to work and explore that. Build on your skills. It needs to stimulate you to get you out of bed every morning. Make sure the company is right for you and decide if that’s the path you want to take and develop”




This talk wasn’t relevant for me but it was interesting to hear what is going on within the Children’s BBC. Also there is definitely a pattern emerging from the majority of professionals that I have listened to. Where they are now is not where they set out to be. It’s all a part of a journey, a big learning curve and experimentation to find what works for you. The most important thing being…. do what makes you feel happy!

Day 2 | Unique Visions


SPEAKER | Brooke Shaden – Turning Your Strangeness Into a Career


I contacted Brooke on a whim several months ago, after we were asked who we would like to have at Creative Futures Week she was ultimately the best person I could think of. She has a background of Film, Photography & Writing. After worrying about making contact I just bit the bullet and did it … basically not expecting a massive result because of how busy she must be but I figured what can I lose by asking. And oh how I was filled with joy to wake up to a lovely reply from her saying that she would love to be involved……can’t quite explain how excited this made me! Not just for me but for everyone at Glyndwr, I knew she would be a huge asset to the line up.



Myself, Karen & Brooke (on the laptop waiting to be wired to the projector)


Below is her website bio and after that are my notes and phone pics from her Skype call that we streamed live at Creative Futures Week.


Brooke explores the darkness and light in people, and her work looks at that juxtaposition. As a self-portrait artist, she photographs herself and becomes the characters of dreams inspired by a childhood of intense imagination and fear. Being the creator and the actor, Brooke controls her darkness and confronts those fears.

After studying films for years in college, she realized her love of storytelling was universal. She started photography then in 2008, excited to create in solitude and take on character roles herself. Brooke works from a place of theme, often gravitating toward death and rebirth or beauty and decay.

Ultimately, her process is more discovery than creation. She follows her curiosity into the unknown to see whom her characters might become. Brooke believes the greatest gift an artist has is the ability to channel fears, hopes and experience into a representation of one’s potential.

While her images come from a personal place of exploration, the goal in creating is not only to satisfy herself; her greatest wish is to show others a part of themselves. Art is a mirror for the creator and the observer .

Brooke’s passion is storytelling, and her life is engulfed in it. From creating self-portraits and writing to international adventures and motivational speeches, she wants to live a thousand lives in one. She keeps her curiosity burning to live a truly interesting story.



Brooke spent the first half of the session talking about what she does and how she does it, we then went on to a Q&A from myself, Karen, Kamila & then the audience.

She began by talking about how she comes up with ideas and finding inspiration from everyday objects around her. She then develops her initial idea, looking at colour and the emotional choice for different colours and then onto props and location.




It’s vitally important to make work that you love, that is true to you.

If you can’t relate to your own work then how can you expect anyone else to?

She doesn’t just class herself as a photographer, she is a storyteller and it just so happened that photography became her medium as a way of telling her stories, there is so much more to her images than just taking a picture in regards to the concept, the why, to the way it’s shot and edited. When she first started out she knew she wanted to create dark yet beautiful imagery. She had the choice to do what could make her money there and then and work commercially or do what she loved and stick to that carving her individual style and path.




Art is about connecting with others, building communities of people who can relate to or be inspired to do something similar.




Realise your impact – This was something she was faced with early on, using social media to share her images and focusing on how many likes and interaction she received. An image she uploaded didn’t get the feedback she was hoping for so she took it down, only to then be contacted by a friend who wanted to know why she had taken it down and that it had actually helped her to deal with a really traumatic experience that she was going through. And this happened on other occasions also, so it became clear to Brooke how much you can affect others emotionally.

‘Everyone has the ability to impact others with their work. You may not realise it or you may never realise it but it will happen’




Master at your craft – This doesn’t mean that you have to own every piece of fancy equipment, software and be trained in every aspect of photography that there is. It simply means that you need to become a master of what you like to use and be proud of that, and create unique art based on that.




Something she realised early on in her career:

‘If what you do in life is not your love affair then you’re not going to get very far with it’

Decide EXACTLY what you want to do, what makes you happy and what you want to spend your time doing day in day out. Because if you know what you want to do then it is easier to find a way to make it happen. And don’t worry if what you love doing now changes and you love something else in the future, it is all part of your journey.




Create your own rules – This is her favourite thing about Art because you can forge a career out of doing whatever you want. The cornerstone of her career was realising that just because someone tells her to do something she doesn’t need to do it, she’s made her own rules and followed her own path.

‘Art is very selfish in that it’s something that allows you to dig into who you are and be that person despite what everyone says. And that’s a little bit scary because it’s scary to be who you are unapologetically but I believe that’s the greatest thing we can do’

Brooke then went on to breakdown an image and how she put it together in Photoshop:




She was also going to edit an image from the start but unfortunately was unable to finish it because of technical issues, her laptop wasn’t happy running Skype and Photoshop at the same time.


LIVE Q&A (I have only included some of the Q&A because of the length of the answers)

So when it comes to education you always give so much, everything that you have learnt you make it so available for everybody. You have free online information on your Youtube channel, tons of videos as well as your new website which is about promoting passion, everything that you have learnt is there for everybody to access. So when you first started out creating images did you set out to inspire and educate people like you do or has that just happened naturally along the way?

It was a little bit of both, I always wanted to be an English Teacher personally, so I grew up thinking that I was going to do that and I got a Degree in English. And so my back up plan was if my art didn’t work out I was to get my teachers Degree and then go be an English Teacher. So I always wanted to be an educator and after I started photography I had some people asking like ‘how do you do that’ and ‘why do you so that’ and I started thinking about teaching photography instead of english because I thought well, teaching is teaching and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do. And so I started workshops just locally and that transitioned into artists retreats and then that transitioned into motivational speaking so it’s sort of been something that I’ve always wanted to do but didn’t start my career thinking that that’s what I would do. So, it’s a little bit of both but i’ve also realised that I find Art to be much more inspiring to make when other people are in on it with you and that there’s someone to share it with, that there’s someone to tell the process to. So it’s become sort of integral to me to really feel connected.


There is so much thought behind your images and every element that is included in it but at the same time you always try to keep the cost down, which is quite important when you are a student, and you make the most of what’s available to you. What would you spend on average for each shoot?

Oh gosh like, I guess on the average to be like 5 dollars .. I don’t know, it’s not much. I have a lot of dresses that I re-use and re-use and re-use so I would say that the average picture doesn’t cost me anything because they are things that I have on hand. You know, I don’t usually buy new things for images but if I do I try to keep the costs under like 20 bucks or something. And then I’ll do the occasional series where I’ll spend a lot more money on it. A couple of days ago I was travelling and I was actually in the middle of nowhere in a forest hanging a glass coffin from a tree which is extremely weird and very expensive as it would turn out to do that. But that’s the really rare time that i’ll spend a lot of money to make a lot of money. Really invest in a series rather than every single image that I create.


Just thinking Brooke you mentioned that the coffin was made of glass as well, so did you commission somebody to do that or work with somebody to do that?

Yes! It was so funny! I asked my friend who has this property that we can shoot on, I said ‘ do you know anyone who could make a coffin ‘ and he said ‘ yea I’ll have it done by friday! ‘ So he did and I showed up and i saw the coffin and it was great and I said ‘ who ended up doing it? ‘ and he said ‘ oh these two truck drivers that i know ‘ so it wasn’t even like a real business it was just some guys who wanted to try .. and thankfully nobody died! :’-D


Do you think that keeping things simple encourages you to be more creative?

It depends on how you work I will say that because I’ve seen people who really thrive in an environment with a lot of stimulation but the interesting thing is if you take all of the training wheels essentially that people get used to like the best gear or lots of locations or great props or whatever you use on a regular basis then you are forced to confront your own imagination which is amazing and terrifying at the same time. I’ve done this exercise many times where I take a group of people and just trap each person in their own room with nothing in it just white walls no furniture. And then say ok you have an hour now create something, and it’s so interesting the emotional process that people go through of like ok I’ve got a camera and myself and maybe a couple of resources but really nothing to inspire so you have to look within. It’s interesting because people go through almost this like grieving process of like first they’ve lost what they’re used to and then they’re angry about it and then they resign to it and the stimulation of their imagination starts to kick in and then they’re so proud of themselves for making something out of nothing. So I believe that is the true mark of an artist, is what can you do with nothing, not what can you do with a whole bunch of inspiration stimuli all around.


Your equipment doesn’t define your images, you go out on location with sometimes just your camera and use whatever’s around you. So, what’s the weirdest thing that you’ve ever had to use or do to get a shot? …apart from the coffin!

Yea, I feel like this weekend is very fresh in my mind! You know, I feel like the times I have felt most challenged in photography is entirely self-inflicted, like just because I can’t remember anything I’ll just show up on location and not have my remote control for example for a self-portrait and have to figure out how to run 100 metres and balance on a rock in 10 seconds. Ridiculous things that are impossible, so I find that happening to me a lot where if I only had a remote, so that’s like the most consistent thing that’s frustrating about myself but there have been many challenging situations as well. Like if I said to you guys, ok, the assignment today is to go hang a coffin from a tree, like that is a really difficult thing to do … so it turns out. It’s really fun though to have those moments of how am I going to work through every step of this process to make it work.




My evaluation is that I am chuffed to bits to have a selfie with Brooke Shaden!! haha

I really felt humbled to have had the chance to listen to Brooke talk about how she has developed her career into exactly what she wants to do and how she does it! It was nothing but awe-inspiring and I think regardless if you want to create images like her or something totally different her talk would have given everyone in that room something to take away and use.

A truly gifted photographer, storyteller, educator and genuinely awesome person all rolled into one!

Day 1 | Becoming Creative Wrexham


SPEAKER | Joe Marsh – Ty Pawb

During this session Joe introduced all the exciting plans for the renovated Peoples Market which is now going to be the home of Oriel Wrexham, they have merged together to become Ty Pawb.  Millions of pounds have been invested in this project to join the Arts & Markets together and promote a bigger cultural community. These are the notes & phone pics that i took throughout the talk.


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There will be 18 markets, food courts, cafes, live entertainment, gallery spaces and rentable spaces.




For the gallery spaces they will be planned up to 3 years in advance, but there will also be ‘Baggy Spaces’ and these will be areas which will be available for more current projects, they want to be able to cater for new projects and don’t have to go on a waiting list for years.

It hasn’t been easy because they have faced lots of public backlash in the beginning, people have expressed anxiety about it and struggled to see how the change was relevant.




To help the understanding of the project they have involved the community all along the way in decisions and help them embrace the new cultural market change.




A public consultation was held in Wrexham Museum to bring together the meaning and values of the project and develop it’s own name. The public was then able to vote and Ty Pawb (Everybody’s House) chosen.




They have been influenced by Mima – Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art and aim to be a tangible benefit to the wrexham community as well as something bigger.




Ty Pawb Statement:



Within Ty Pawb there will be opportunities for artists to display their work, for example on the WAL PAWB. This is a wall that is in between the arts and the markets within the building, commissioned artists will have their work displayed for 1 year at a time.


3 Part Program



Exhibitions / Education / Merchandise will all work in tandem together, lots of public projects, getting people involved and looking at issues within the community to raise awareness and put money back into the community.


Dydd Llun Pawb ( Everybody’s Monday)



This is a project they have been getting the community involved with, researching old stories about wrexham …there is one about the old Lego Factory, apparently there is tons of Lego buried underneath the building!

Out of all the stories they have collected, the public have been allowed to choose the best 6 and then 6 artists have been commissioned to create souvenirs. This is a good example of how the 3 Part Program is going to work because the souvenirs will end up in the shop available to buy.



I enjoyed this informative talk by Joe, it’s really exciting for the community as well as all local artists to have something like this which will help grow the cultural development in wrexham. Making the Arts more accessible for everyone and introducing it in an innovative way. I’ll be looking forward to attending the opening day with my family.

**All Images in this blog were taken during this seminar with Joe Marsh – Ty Pawb**

Day 1 | A Painter’s Life


SPEAKER | Shani Rhys James MBE


This talk was about her life as a painter and how her experiences along the way have become intertwined into her work, these are my notes and quotes from her talk.


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Shani was born in Australia but moved to the UK when she was young with her Australian Father and Welsh Mother.

She spent her years as a student at the Loughborough College of Art and Design and then moved onto to ST Martins School Of Art in London for her Degree.  These were her experimenting years and she never actually thought that her art was going to be something that would make her money.

“What is it that makes us want to create?”

She discussed that paintings have been found done on Cave Walls by Neanderthals so there has always been the want for us as beings to create.

Although Rhys James’ early work was mainly experimental and finding her way, once she met her partner and had children it changed. Finding that living in London with 2 young children was having an adverse affect on them they decided to move to Wales. There they bought a derelict house which her husband worked on whilst she looked after her children and painted around them. She explained how her own childhood was disrupted, because of the life of her mother being an actress and travelling to do shows she was often left with a few pounds to feed and look after herself for the day.




So this had an impact on her to the point that she didn’t want to miss any of her children’s early years and enjoy them.

“Life is Art & Art is Life”

To live a life as an artist you have to be single-minded, as in you have to know what you want to do, keep it in the forefront of your mind and keep doing it, even though you’re surrounded by other life consuming things like your family and children etc.




Over the years she has been applied to get into the John Moores Gallery since 1983 and keeps getting rejected but that won’t stop her trying.

‘There is no point being an egocentric Artist, that’s not relevant… as an artist you just have to work hard’ And do it in and around your life, taking inspiration as you go. It can be hard as a mother because when it comes to spending money…. do you buy a new easel that you need or a new coat for your child? So the balance of being a self-employed artist & a mother can be extremely challenging.




She explains how having her children was the most important thing to her, and this can be seen through her paintings in the way she features children and how they should be given priority within a family.




Loss and grief was channelled through her work like in this image below it was when her son left home, the grief she felt when she looked at his empty bed.




‘Grief turns into energy’

Judy Dench

Art can be amazing for anyone dealing with trauma, it’s a way of expression and release.




She also features a lot of women and feminist issues about women especially before the Russian Revolution where they were frustrated and confined to the home. Women didn’t have a voice and she looks at them breaking free from oppression and that women have the right to be heard.

Her advice as an artist is to keep your humanity! Tune into social, political, world & humanity issues to express your voice and be kind, thoughtful & empathetic.



I really enjoyed listening to her talk about her life and experiences which have impacted her life as a painter. Although she uses a different medium to myself it was interesting to see how her life as a mother and an artist has developed. This is something that is relevant to me and i found it comforting to hear her realistic experiences and hurdles along the way.

If I was to write keywords about her work they would be:

Red / Blood / White / Black / Isolation / Children / Serious / Bold / Isolated

Isolated, was one of the key words for me and I found it interesting that that’s where she feels comfortable to paint, she prefers isolation and i think that comes through in her work.

She is inspiring in the fact that she has continued to do what she loves and embraced her life through it and become an award-winning artist.

She came across as an honest, confident and experienced artist and delivered an entertaining talk that was a great start to our Creative Futures Week.


**All Images in this blog were taken during this seminar with Shani Rhys James MBE**