‘To embrace imagination is something that children do on a daily basis, yet adults forget to exercise that muscle,’ explains Brooke Shaden. The 25-year-old American fashion and fine art photographer is referring to her latest body of work, shot in California and entitled ‘Vivid Dreams’, in which she explores wild concepts from the hope of flight to the fear of falling. ‘I want to put forth the idea that the imagination is as real as the life you live,’ she says.

‘There are several ways I achieve a dreamy effect. The first is in the camera; I try to use colours that will give an otherworldly quality to the scene. Then in editing, I make colours stand out even more, add clouds for a stormy look, and use texture to overlay on the image, which gives it a painterly quality.’ Inspired by fairytales, Shaden says that the idea of creating new worlds drove her to create a series that would act as a ‘childlike view on real-life problems’. We asked her to talk us through some of her stand-out shots.

Invading homes
Camera: Canon 5D MKII with 50mm f/1.4 lens.
‘I shot this on an overcast day with a friend modelling. Instead of running we had to leap once to capture the shot because he was too tall for us to run hand in hand. I photographed a piece of paper with a hole in it, then blended it into the sky to make it seem as though there was a rip in the photo paper. Suddenly it came to life with the idea that the characters were real and needed to be rescued – they’re as real as the people you see each day. They have real problems, are running from real fears. It is as though you can reach inside and feel the world of the image.’

A storm to move mountains
Camera: Nikon D80 with 50mm f/1.8 lens.
‘To me, this image is about Mother Nature. The red fabric symbolises blood (the red life-blood) and emanates from the woman in the image. A storm comes – another symbol of her power. The day I shot this, it was very windy and my tripod was threatening to blow over. I was shooting a self-portrait so there was no one there to hold the camera. It was the type of wind that hurts your ears, and I remember getting back in my car and hearing ringing for 20 minutes. Luckily as I was shooting, a family walked past and their kids were interested in what I was doing. They ended up holding my tripod still. To make the image work in post-production, I had to know what to shoot before I started. I had a small piece of red fabric, so I photographed myself wrapped in that fabric as my first picture. I then flung the fabric around the scene, taking a picture each time, so I could layer it together in Photoshop. I used different pictures to create a dress in editing.’

What keeps you warm
Camera: Canon 5D MKII with 50mm f/1.4 lens.
‘I borrowed a cloak from a friend and I wanted it to be the star of the shot. I thought it would be interesting to have the cloak blocking some of the camera. I whipped it around to give the effect, but the challenge was knowing where to shoot myself to connect it all and make it believable. I had to photograph it several times and put the pieces together to make the cloak seem as long as it does. I used three shots to give it length, and added some extra hair to give the feeling of running. The idea of running away from the unknown is fascinating to me, and I wanted to play on that.’
The lowdown
Exhibition: ‘Vivid Dreams’ until December 15 at Gulf Photo Plus, Alserkal Avenue (04 380 8545).
Artist: Brooke Shaden
Price of works: From Dhs4,775 per limited-edition print.