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Capture Inspiration Photo Retreat: Chicago

Image: Brooke Shaden, Model: Angela Ruth

I had two experiences this summer that inspired me to host a photo retreat. The first was teaching on creativeLIVE where I got to spend 3 days with the students in the class, morning til night (often until midnight shooting in our hotel rooms). The next experience was filming my new Framed show The Concept with all of the assistant producers. We spent unbelievably long hours together for 6 days straight and it was pure magic. The friendships I have made from those experience will last a lifetime.

What I loved most was twofold. First, everyone there was so willing to be open and to grow. I find it extremely inspiring to be around such individuals. The second thing that I loved was that I got to spend so much time with everyone. No breaks aside from sleep, intense schedules, and new experiences.

I decided to replicate that experience by hosting a photography retreat. I spent 2 1/2 days with 11 women in a big house in Chicago. We ate together, shared rooms, watched movies, took pictures, and most of all, inspired one another.

By the end of it, everyone thanked me for bringing together such a great group of women. My answer to that, though, was that it was’t my doing. We were all strangers before. So how could I know that these women would be so wonderful? Simple! It takes a special kind of person to want to attend a retreat like this. You have to be willing to take in new knowledge, help one another…and most of all, you have to want inspiration and growth in your life.

We had so much fun together. It will last a lifetime, these memories. From throwing our fears out the door, or in our case shredding them into pieces, to making “Swamp Siren” t-shirts, it was a time to remember. I lead everyone in shooting blindfolded, practicing composited imagery, image editing, storytelling, learning the business of fine art around a bonfire, and the little things, like watching The Illusionist and eating healthy snacks.

Certainly the highlight was our 6am romp in the water. On Sunday night I proclaimed that I would be doing a self-portrait in the local swamp at 6am and that I hoped everyone would join me. Reluctantly, suspiciously, almost everyone turned up at the front door at 6am the next morning and we went to the swamp. We drove our cars under the rope that shut off the park to the public, we changed into the dresses I brought with me, and in 40 degree weather we took turns trekking through mud and getting in the water.

It was truly a moment I will never forget. And the smiles on everyone’s faces after…to be a kid again, to remember what it feels like to play…that is priceless.

Thank you to all who came…my new friends: Mercia, Mariely, Robyn, Vanessa, Maite, Madeline, Amber, Cynthia, Bernadette, Mindy, and Crackle.

Thank you to the models who so graciously got covered in mud: Jane Love, Angela Ruth, Erin Leigh Pribyl, Olivia Clemens.

And, to my trusty assistant who we all owe so much to for the weekend: KD Stapleton.

Read on for more behind the scenes photos and finished images from some of the attendees!

Image: Cynthia Kannan, Model: Bernadette Pollard

Image: Cynthia Kannan, Model: Olivia Clemens

Image: Amber Iverson

Image: Robyn Russell, Model: Olivia Clemens

Image: Maite Benito Agahnia, Model: Olivia Clemens

Image: Maite Benito Agahnia

Image: Maite Benito Agahnia

ellie guerrero

Image: Ellie Guerrero, Model: Bernadette Pollard

Image: Robyn Russell, Model: Angela Ruth

Image: Vanessa Powell, Model: Jane Love

Image: Vanessa Powell

BTS Photo: Madeline True

Image: Mercia Moseley, Model: Angela Ruth


Image: Mercia Moseley, Model: Olivia Clemens


Image: Mercia Moseley, Model: Olivia Clemens


BTS photo: Mercia Moseley


BTS photo: Mercia Moseley


BTS photo: Mercia Moseley

BTS Photos: Madeline True

BTS Photo: Madeline True

BTS Photo: Crackle Bingham

BTS Photo: Maite Benito Agahnia

Photos by: (L) Madeline True, (R) Robyn Russell

BTS Photo: Madeline True

BTS Photo: Crackle Bingham

{ 14 } Comments

  1. April Andrews | October 1, 2013 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Oh I hope you do this again!

  2. Samantha Pugsley | October 1, 2013 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Brooke, I love when you share your behind the scenes photos from your retreats and workshops. I hope that someday I can attend one. They look like such an amazing, inspiring experience.

  3. Daniela Pacheco | October 1, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Ohhhh what a wonderful experience!!! I’ll have to save for a future retreat like this. So happy to see some familiar faces Crackle and Amber!!! Yayyyyy
    Brooke, I’ve seen you in cL and framed before, your work is totally inpiring and spending time with you must be super fun!!!

  4. nikki | October 1, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Wonderful!! And your HAIR!!! LOVE! xo

  5. Julie Ray | October 1, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Brooke, you are such an inspiration to me and I was so blessed to be a part of the creativeLIVE workshop. These images are so stunning and I can only image how fun all of you had! As always, I truly enjoy all of the BTS images and seeing what you and your students created! Thanks for being a tiny part of my life.


  6. Leandra Brown | October 1, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    This looks amazing I love all of the pictures!

  7. Julene Evans | October 1, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I love this! Watching you teach on creativeLive from the UK was amazing and each time I view the downloads, I learn and am inspired even more. When you held a workshop this past summer in London, I was unable to attend. I am hoping that you might one day decide to host a photo retreat here in the UK. Thank you so much for sharing these moments and resulting photos with the rest of the world.

  8. Maite | October 1, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for all you shared, for bringing us together, and for making it an experience of a lifetime. I took away so much! From photography to human relationships. It was unforgettable. There’s some definite magic around you, Brooke. I am grateful to have been sprinkled some of your pixie dust. xo

  9. grazielle carvalho | October 1, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink


  10. Daria Ratliff | October 1, 2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    What can I say? Fun above all? Unreal!

  11. Stephanie | October 2, 2013 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    Oooohhh, looks like you ladies had a BLAST! I hope to one day attend one of these retreats!

  12. Kat St John | October 2, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    This is absolutely divine. I really love the behind the scenes photos! Being a makeup artist, you are always the “drummer in the band”. Its great seeing pictures of a team working together. Lovely!

  13. Deserae Pollock | October 2, 2013 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    I would love to attend something like this.

  14. Robyn Russell | October 10, 2013 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    I love you Brooke. Thank you for giving your passion, artistry and friendship to us, now and always! xo

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