How do we cultivate a sense of self? How do we cultivate a sense of speaking, of persona, a way of dressing, a way of lighting ourselves, that is consistent with our brand that we can be comfortable with? And it's very likely that it will take a lot of time. And if I were to ask you right now, if I said, "you know what? In 10 minutes, you're gonna get up on stage and give a lecture." Everyone would start sweating profusely, we'd be really nervous, and you would probably just leave. You'd probably just leave. You'd be like, "you know what, I'm done with this class. Thanks, but no thanks," and you'd walk out. And I understand because it's horrifying. So how can we get over it? Now, like I mentioned, I used to be very, very terrified of public speaking and, in fact, speaking to anybody. I was terrified. And there are a number of ways that I got over this. One is to realize that the way that you naturally speak is fine. Okay? You don't need to be somebody else. You don't need to sound a ce...
rtain way. The people who are most successful at creating videos, at being a public figure, are the people who are just themselves authentically without trying to be anything else. So first things first: don't worry about how you sound. Let it go. The next thing to remember is: Look your best. Dress for your brand. Do your hair nice if that's what you want to do. Just make sure that you look comfortable with yourself. It's really important. Don't try to look like something that you're not. The next thing to remember is that we can always practice our voice, tone and inflection. People are very boring to listen to when they're monotoned and it's easy to fall into that really lazy way of talking when you're creating video content or giving answers to an interview because, one, there aren't always people there. So if you're just talking to a camera, it's really hard to be excited about talking to that camera, you know? It's just a camera, it doesn't talk back. If you're in an interview, you might just feel embarrassed by what you're saying or what you're being asked. It's really easy to do that. So how do we practice? We just practice. So, Samantha, you're gonna join me, aren't you?
Up there? Well you can sit right there. You can join me in spirit, yes. See? We're the same person, I love it. Okay, interview practice. Now, what I want you to pretend is that there are cameras all around. Is that hard to pretend? I'll do my best. Okay. And I want you to pretend that, like, what's your dream job? Can you get paid to professionally wander in forests? You can get paid for anything.
That's what I wanna get paid for. Okay, so this is a job with the coolest company in the world, who's going to pay you to wander around forests, find dead things, and photograph them.
Beautiful. Okay. I knew I got you there.
Yeah. Okay, so I'm the person who's either going to hire you or think that you're a complete idiot. No pressure. And now we're interviewing you. So, I want you to imagine this is a filmed interview, you have to say the right thing on the first time.
No pressure. I know, I thought this would be real easy. So, what type of work do you do? I'm a fine art photographer and, generally, I work in the horror or conceptual genre. Great. Okay, so that was nice and succinct. We practiced with our elevator pitches, that was really good, and you're making eye contact with me which I really appreciate. Very good. Alright, so then how do you do that? What is that process like? Sometimes it looks a little silly. It's a lot of wandering around in the forest and picking up dead things and photographing those dead things. What kinds of dead things? Bones, dead plants, insects, anything that looks like it might create some visual interest in a photograph but in an odd way. It would make you look twice at it if you saw it. Good, see? And I like the way that she just pivoted because she was saying something and I was kind of losing her and then she picked up her voice again and, like, cut right in, it was like, "nope, I'm gonna say the definitive thing here," which is really, really good. Okay, so why? Why do you do this? I've always been drawn to dark things. I find them very beautiful and so I want to show that to other people as well. Nice. What's unique about this? Since I assume there's like a whole very odd subgenre of people who are into dead things. What makes you unique in this process? I often look through what I do through the lens of mental illness and so, a lot of times, there is that underlying theme in my work and I feel like a lot of other people don't like to do that because it can be a very taboo subject. Perfect. Do you notice how great that answer was? Because we were going through the answers to these questions and it was like standard, standard, standard, not very standard because dead things and whatnot. But, you know, things that anybody might say until you just made it personal, which is great. In any interview scenario, bringing it back to the personal process and why you do it is fantastic. Okay, so where do you find your inspiration? Everywhere. Books, other media, music videos, just being outside, talking to people, even fashion magazines. It can literally come from everywhere. I don't consider myself the kind of artist who can only find inspiration in one place; I want to find it everywhere. Beautiful. So you chase it actively?
Yes. That's good. Okay, next question. Let's see... What makes your work unique? Like, visually, what about it stands out? That's a hard one.
Mm-hmm. I work sometimes with symmetry but then doing something really weird to it, so like flipping it upside down or turning it another way and offering a perspective that sometimes makes you feel strange to look at it. Interesting, that is interesting, good job. (laughs) I said interesting, I meant it. Okay, what's something surprising about you? I also run a fashion blog.
Okay, that's interesting. Most people would find that odd. Yeah, for sure. What makes you do that? It's sort of the same thing, I think they're kind of related. I'm kind of a dark and moody person in real life and found that I dressed that way and so it kind of echoed back to that.
Yeah. I guess. It's weird, I don't know. No, it's not weird. And see?
I'm turning red now. Your answer would have been perfect if you hadn't said, "it's weird, I don't know."
Yeah. Because it's not weird. If you tell me it's not weird, it's not weird. You have the final say. That's the great thing about interview scenarios is that you say something to me and I believe you, right away without much convincing, right? Like, if you said to me dark fine art and dark fashion are totally related, I'm like yeah, obviously they are. Even though I would have never thought that.
Oh, thank you. Yeah, of course, so they are, I believe you. Good job. Okay, now, what has been your favorite creation if you had to describe? I did a photo one time where I used myself as a model and reached my hand through a window in an abandoned house and the only thing in the center of the image is a hand reaching through the window and it's always been my favorite image since I created it and, anytime I'm asked that question, immediately comes to mind. Why? What makes it so connected for you? Every element was something that I connected with. The location, the time of day, the person I was with who was helping me, what I was wearing, the angle, everything was exactly what I pictured.
Good. And that doesn't happen always for artists. So it fulfilled your vision.
Absolutely. Okay, great. Now, final question. Oh, no, two more questions. How often do you create? I create frequently but often different genres and things. I'm an artist that's a little all over the place but I do think there's a central theme of darkness and beauty intermingled throughout. Well done. Good way to wrap that up. Which brings us to this question you've already answered now three times: is there a central theme to your work? Beauty and darkness. Struggles in mental illness but coming through it. So hope as well. How do you... See, now I'm just interested. How do you, or do you hope to help other people with what you're doing? Yes, every time I create. Because you hope that they see it and then see themselves in it? Or what's your goal? I want them to feel less alone. Beautiful. That was a great interview.
Thank you. Thank you so much. You're a very good speaker and I wasn't sure. You know, I've never heard you give an interview so I didn't know how it would go. And not all of us can be that confident in what we're saying. You're very good at that. I don't know if you feel confident or not but you look it and you sound...
I can fake it. Well, good. Fake it 'til you make it, and then you'll become it. At least that's what I think. So, it was really good to do that because I can answer questions all day long, and you've heard me do it, and you're done hearing my yappy voice right now, so okay. It was good to hear from you to hear just how somebody else might answer these questions that we get asked all the time. And I would really recommend listening to interviews from other artists, or just anybody, to see the ways in which they pull the focus back onto the most interesting part of the central answer to these questions. Some people get really, really lost in these answers and ramble on for a long time and it's very difficult to sort of follow. Other people have this amazing way of bringing it right back to the most interesting thing that they could possibly say. At least from our point of view, right? So, when you're practicing this type of public speaking, and I highly recommend, in fact I insist, that all of us go home and do this: answer these questions. Sit in front of the mirror if you have to, just sit on your bed and just talk to nothing, but answer these questions and pretend like somebody's hearing and you only have one chance to answer it. You can't go back and say, "oh, no, wait, can we do that again or start over?" See how it goes. Talk authoritatively. Tell people what you really, really believe and what pulls your soul out of you to say. That's the best thing and it's like I said to Samantha: if you say something, people believe you. You are the authority on you at any given time. Nobody can say... Like, I couldn't be like, "your pictures aren't about mental illness." You'd be like, "what!? Of course they are," because that's your story. I can't tell you that that's not your story. The great thing about being able to speak about your work is that you cultivate this sense of confidence that permeates everything. You control the interview, you control that video, you control that room, when you are confident and passionate about what you're trying to say. And that's all it is. So if I had to say the miracle transformation that I went through? It was two things: Realizing that nobody cares as much as I do, I can say any stupid thing that I want and it doesn't matter. I remember getting up on stage once and I realized as I was walking up that I thought that maybe somebody could see my underwear because my dress was a little see-through and I didn't realize it, so I got up there and I was like, "I'm wearing green underwear," and my friend was like, looking horrified in the front row, like, "she did not just say that," and I was like, why not, you know? Might as well just say it. Who cares? Nobody cares as much as I do, right? There's no chance that those people who were in that audience are still talking about that one time that Brooke talked about her green underwear. Like, come on, nobody cares. So the fact that nobody cares is one way that let me get over my fear of speaking about my work. But the other thing is realizing that I love what I do. I genuinely love it so much and I want to tell people about it. I want to share what I do with other people. Now, if you can get up on stage and recognize that, one, nobody cares about you in any amount of significant way that you care about yourself, and also that somebody needs to hear what you have to say. They might never tell you, you might never know the impact that you've had, but if you assume that somebody needs to hear it then you're way more likely to be able to say it with confidence and passion. So I would highly recommend practicing this over and over. Answer these questions, answer new questions, practice talking to a camera, and just practice talking to your friends, answering some of these questions, and see how that goes. So hopefully we can all start to speak more about our work, make some video content, and put that out there really confidently.