Interview with Brooke Mason World Renown Photographer

With: Song River

Photographer Brooke Mason and I recently had a chance to sit down and chat. Sharing a similar passion for photography and a love for Australia we immediately felt an amicable connection.

Brooke is self-taught and has a uniqueness to her abilities to tell her story behind the lens. Working on various photography gallery projects and becoming well known in among the 'stars' her journey has led her to not only model, photograph, and curate but to build her own foundation that empowers women known as “Women Manifest” recently in March they held an exhibit sponsored by the City of West Hollywood for Women’s History Month, which was very successful. Helping to empower women of all ages and walks of life is today's feminist and Brooke is right there in the midst of it networking and creating opportunities.

Song River: Brooke thank you so much for taking time out to chat with me. It's funny as soon as I read a few articles on you this imagery from a few years ago came to mind. There was a song by Duran Duran "Girls On Film" and still every time I go back and watch that video... and I see the film roll placed in the camera... a familiar scent immediately triggers my brain. Is there an addiction to this base sense of memory called, film?

Brooke Mason: What a great song! I especially love the scene in the video of the female who slam dunks the sumo wrestler, my kinda girl!. Ideally, I would be still shooting on film, but things are moving in such a fast paced life for me there is barely any time. 

SR: I have often heard we photographers are an odd lot? A bit daft, dreamers, wonky. Maybe some, but Brooke in order to have reached the level you have there must have been something more to who you are and what you've driven your sights to accomplish.

BM: (laughed) I agree! I’ve been told I’m on the “odd” side of the spectrum but I am focused and driven so that helps me balance the artist within

SR: You stepped into the darkroom at an early age. Did you even think about photography being a natural extension of you?

BM: My main focus at a very young age was to capture a message, a story and bring to light social issues, nothing has changed much. In my fine art, I get to explore this with more depth. I need to have a purpose to my work otherwise, I find I’m not as motivated and my work lacks pizzazz. Like any true artist, I’m my own worst critic. 

SR: Over time as you left your homeland, ventured into acting, modeling, then came back home to your soul... at this point of where you are today how many times would you say you have 'morphed' as a photographer? What I mean by that is this speaking for myself I know I have moved from  various genre styles and topics over the years from Scene Sets, Models, Cosplay, Portraiture, Concert Photography, etc... is there any aspect of it you haven't touched yet that you would like to?

BM: I like that word, “morphed”. Yes, it is always an ever evolving process. I think it would be fair to say all artists are shifting as they go through different challenges and experiences in life. One thing for me that’s important is my love of photographing people, creating story and art directing. I started photographing interior design and architecture this last year and it’s been a fun ride having the job of capturing others art. 

SR: Sometimes we find our niche and it feels safe. What challenges are you setting for yourself? What is next in development?

BM: My fine art photography is my biggest intellectual and artistic challenge.  Mostly because I have to figure out how to express my voice beautifully, artistically and powerfully within one photograph. My upcoming series for 2017 will be my biggest feature yet, in particular, my self-portrait. It’ll be physically, mentally and technically the hardest thing I’ve ever done. 

SR: Brooke, as a photographer do you 'see' the shot or 'feel' the shot? Explain.

BM: I see the shot! I already have a set-up in my mind, often it has been storyboarded before I even pick up the camera so my crew knows where my head’s at. Sometimes I even draw the shot with lighting before I shoot. There are so many things that happen on set so I need to have a clear purpose and visual reference of what my goals are for the shoot day. Then I have flexibility.

SR: It's a warm L.A. arvo, what camera do you grab as you head out the door to just see what you find? 

BM: (Smiled broadly) Thank you for the Australian slang! Yes, certainly many wonderful LA arvos. My cameras are so heavy and bulky I need to get myself a fun Leica to sport around my neck. If I find random inspiration I’ll just snap an iPhone pic and reference that later. 

SR: Is spontaneity still something you try to remember?

BM: I work backwards… After I have a few variations of my planned photograph in the can, then let the spontaneity fly!

SR: Where do you sense you need the most control as a photographer Brooke- behind the camera/in the studio or the darkroom afterwards?

BM: I’m lucky that I work with people who trust me, I get to give creative input on set. Working behind the camera, I feel I have the most creative freedom. Often post-production is up to the final touches of what the client wants and needs are. 

 SR: Where do the digital age and the editing programs belong in general to the modern photography world?

BM: Today it would be fair to say that no image in the commercial world goes without some form of post-production. Retouching is a big part of my daily studio life, but I enjoy the process since it’s all encompassing for me, it’s still part of the art in the end. 

SR: Do you feel learning the foundational points is still just as poignant to today's photographers as a painters' brush to the classic masters? 

BM: I’m all self-taught so I don’t have any ego of what I don’t know. There are plenty better technical photographers than I am. I’m an open book and love to learn more things. I would hope that other photographers feel that way too. 

SR: Tell me more about how you are connecting the empowerment of women and tying it into photography/art.

BM: A few of us women started a group called Women Manifest and we were sponsored by the City of West Hollywood for Women’s History Month, March 2016. It’s about women supporting and highlighting the achievements and accomplishments of other women. Making more community. I’m a feminist and my message is always and will continue to be about women empowering each other. In history men have had men’s groups and support each other, I so feel this is no different. We need to have more camaraderie with each other. 

SR: How can someone get involved?

BM: Keep track of our website to see what’s going on and what events are coming up. We always need volunteers and help.
I have an art exhibit I’m curating “AWAKEN: the female voice” opening April 21st- June 27th at Plummer Park Community Center, West Hollywood; the reception was April 21st 6-8pm. (If anyone wants to see some empowering female art.) There are 6 female photographers in the exhibit and 3 other amazing artists. 

SR: Photography is without question one of the most expensive professions, yet it seems to be treated often as nothing more than a hobby.  How do you view this and what are you doing to change the perceptions?

BM: I’m so glad you mentioned that. Yes, it really is costly. As a female photographer, more often than not, people think it's “cute” and ask if I photograph family portraits and weddings. There is definitely some work to do about people’s perceptions of reality especially gender based ones. 

SR: Talk to me about the gallery presentations and what they entail.

BM: I have been in nine gallery exhibits this year already, so it’s been a busy year! I believe photography is finally getting recognized as a true art form in the gallery world. So it’s an exciting time.
It’s certainly a process to get the final image just how you want it ready to hang in the gallery, I can go through as many as five proofs on an image before it’s what I want. Getting ready for an exhibit is less artistic and more organizational. 

SR:  Where, what, how are you developing your next growth in photography Brooke? 

BM: It’s important to me to continue to move forward and grow. However, I generally only think about 6 months in advance, so, for now, I can say my next series will be provocative and highlight some interesting new philosophical ideas.

SR: Any experimentation you would still like to challenge yourself within shooting and developing?

BM: I would love to try different camera’s in the near future. Each camera really does offer something new and exciting. So far I’ve only worked with Canon, Leica, and Hasselblad. Other than that, it’s more about come as I go as I journey along this path of a life as a photographer. 

SR: Everyone is always looking for advice, and few that will part with industry 'secrets' how are you looking Brooke to help build the next generation of photographers?

BM: I work with a lot of upcoming photographers in my studio, they come to intern and sometimes do light photo assisting. My main advice to aspiring photographers is patience. Of course, I’m guilty of being totally impatient when I was young but now I see what it takes to get to this level and it’s worth the journey, every step of the way

SR: Lastly, I give you an open invitation sometime to come shoot with me at a live rock n roll concert... I'd say...  a punk show might bring out the most colourful adventurer in you. ;) 

BM: Now that sounds fun, thank you! 
I’m not a good event photographer I lose touch of what I should be photographing. Many years ago I photographed a wedding for a friend and was so distraught that I missed an Aunt and Uncle picture I spent 5hrs in Photoshop compositing a photograph to put them into one together. 

 Brooke Mason Photography: