You see her all the time. Scrolling through Tumblr, or your favorite brand’s Instagram feed. Photos of hairy, bare chested men racking cocaine lines. Those photos where you ask yourself, “Damn, do I look that good lying on my bathroom floor?” Photos waiting to get reblogged because the composition rejects the usual ephemera.
Brooke Barone is the person taking those photos. And even sometimes behind the people taking those photos. Whether she’s shooting look books for small brands, snapping behind the scene photos for Vanity Fair, or making connections from her loft in Downtown LA, Brooke is on the move. Brooke shared with The Daily Twenties her grind as a freelance photographer, her style, and what she has planned next.
After high school what did you end up doing?
After I graduated high school I had no freaking idea of what I was going to do but my parents were putting pressure on me to figure it out quick. So I started looking at schools with art and photography programs because it’s always something I’ve been interested in. I ended up at FIDM as a digital media major and two years later, ended up getting my AA there. Initially I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do but I learned about video editing, photography, other visual arts. The classes were pretty generic during that time, like how to use the various editing softwares and stuff, so I didn’t really know how to incorporate my inspiration with the things that I wanted to do. Once I started getting into my Bachelor of Science in Business Management, which is what I’m currently in at FIDM, I started getting more into photography and implementing the ideas that I’ve been inspired by and consistently creating my own work.
Yeah I don’t think FIDM teaches you how to create your own style of photography
Yeah that is something that definitely comes from within. A lot of the stuff that they teach in school has nothing to do with finding your own style and pace. It’s something that you have to pursue on your own and they make that clear that it’s part of your own discovery.
Where does your photo style come from and how would you describe it?
I like to go against the normal comforts and push the viewers boundaries in what they’re willing to accept. My style is a feeling that I get when I’m creating that’s wrapped up in this confrontation between my camera and the subject… Making the model feel as though they have the comfort to push their own boundaries, it creates a space for them to explore what they desire that meets an equivalence to what matches my vision. There’s rarely a time where this doesn’t work out for both of us.
And it shows. These women are not looking vulnerable at all. They are dominant subjects and actually the men look like the objects. A reversal of what one would usually see.
It’s not that I want to degrade anyone, I’m focused on the woman as the primary subject and so the men become an asset to the creation. There’s a space where masculine and feminine energy combine, and I’m exploring the grey area of that space.
So where does that idea come from within you?
Sexuality is just as important as eating food. Wouldn’t it feel terrible if our families made us feel shameful for having desires to eat certain foods? From my own experiences growing up I have learned that it is not in my nature to allow a lack of knowledge toward sexuality under any circumstances.
You have a bunch of different shoots and looks on here. Walk me through the process of coming up with a shoot.
I hit up most of the girls on Instagram, some will hit up me, and then I’ll just have them come over and we’ll shoot. Initially I used to send out concepts to models, but now I just freeform and it comes out pretty fucking well.
So it sounds like its just a natural flow of ideas and movements between the model and the camera?
Yeah and I think that’s where it’s always been at and what I had to realize. Like I wanted to have that sense of inspiration and have the models feel comfortable but I started to become comfortable within myself and my work and so I didn’t really need the conceptual stuff to rely on anymore and it was more spontaneous.
So I think I remember you telling me you worked with some brands. Tell me a little about that.
Well there wasn’t really a defining point where I was suddenly a brand photographer. It just kind of evolved. So initially I started to shoot for brands without their knowledge of who I was. It started with some girls that I knew who had a high following and I would shoot clothing that they had on that was more brand oriented.
At first the brand stuff I do has at one point been completely for free because it matches my vision. Now I am pretty firm in charging to shoot brands on models.
What’s on your gear list?
Sony A7, 25 film cameras and awesome lenses to go with them.
What advice do you have for small brands when hiring a photographer?
Trade is always a nice option if you can’t afford to pay someone.
So what do you want to eventually do?
As of now I’ve already made some great accomplishments that are outside of what I do. Most of the people that I’ve met in my professional career have been through Instagram, I’ve met some amazing people that have referred me to kickass jobs. I’ve worked for Milk Studios a couple times, I’m starting a job with YouTube tomorrow, like BTS stuff for them. And to just keep making awesome connections and collaborations where I get to continue to be creative.
What are some of the drawbacks and pitfalls of what you’re doing?
There’s always hard moments, but the positive experiences outweigh the negatives and so as a whole, I see all as worth while.
If you had some advice for someone looking to get into this field, what would you say.
Stay humble – keep working.
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