Shannon Brooke

There’s no doubt that rocking the retro style is no longer an act of irony. Retro fashion is definitely back in, with chicks like Katy Perry, Dita von Teese and Lady Gaga acting as today’s poster girls for The Look. Shannon Brooke, a photographer based in Los Angeles, can’t get enough of The Look, and has taken her passion a step further than sporting it herself; it is also the aesthetic that inspires her work. Brooke’s style effortlessly combines the 1950’s and the present resulting in her trademark images of unique modern pin-ups.

She also embraces tattoo culture in her shots – while more and more modern female sex symbols have some of their own ink these days, women were seldom seen with them in Brooke’s favorite eras of yore. The result is a gorgeous oeuvre that is best showcased in the glossy pages of magazines such as Deadbeat, among others.

Class is a proper attitude and when needed a lady could turn it on at any time.

Format: How did you first get interested in photography?
Shannon Brooke: My aunt gave me a Nikon F-Series from the 1970s and I was like “What the hell am I gonna do with that?” So I took some classes at a local community college here in Orange County to learn how to use it. Ever since I haven’t put it down. I still shoot with it when I get enough money to actually shoot film.

Format: So you usually shoot digital these days? What’s your favorite camera to use?
Shannon Brooke: I work with a Nikon D2X mostly. I have also shot a lot with a Hasselblad H2D and my favorite camera, a 35mm Nikon F-Series.

Format: How would you describe your aesthetic in your own words?
Shannon Brooke: Retro with a contemporary twist.

Format: What attracts you to the pin-up girl? Why are you particularly interested in the 1920s-1960s?
Shannon Brooke: Pin-up girls are sexy but innocent. Classy and daring. Everything that I am attracted to in people and art, an oxymoron. Girls can be sexy without showing it all, and I stress that to all my clients. It’s all in the attitude and how they look in the clothes that they are wearing. When the girls are nude, there isn’t a lot of personality that the clothes may bring to the photo.

Format: How would you describe today’s modern pin-up? Does she exist? What makes her different from the retro pin-up?
Shannon Brooke: I feel that the modern pin-up is all about the attitude. There is still innocence, but she may have tattoos, piercings, or even green hair! Modern pin-ups express their fashion loudly, which I think is relevant to the classic pinup from the 1950s. Fashion was changing rapidly, adding a bright red shoe to an outfit was a “punk rock” thing to do in the 50s.

Format: What’s your personal style like?
Shannon Brooke: Chameleon, at best! I love wearing whatever I like. I don’t like labels and I hate the word “poser.” Sometimes I wear “Rockabilly” inspired clothing but I rarely listen to Rockabilly music. So if I’ve changed from the day I was born does that make me a poser? I have traditional tattoos, a sleeve on my right arm and random tattoos everywhere else. Sometimes I have Bettie bangs, and sometimes they are a soft swoop. I change my look monthly; I get bored rather quickly.

Format: Tell us more about your tattoos.
Shannon Brooke: My entire lower back is tattooed with sparrows in love, my right arm is sleeved with traditional tattoos, all of which have a story. I have a huge butterfly tattooed below my bellybutton. Not a girly butterfly, a tough one. It’s a Drew Barrymore obsession tattoo. My favorite recently is a tattoo on my elbow of a bloody tooth. It has my brother’s initials below it. When we were kids my little brother hated when I would sing out loud, so one day I put him to the test! I belted out the Muppet Babies song as loud as I could and low and behold I get a kick in my lower back. We had been practicing our WWF moves that week so I put (what I thought was) him in a headlock and flipped him over onto his back. Well, my hand was not around his neck, it was in his mouth, so as I flipped him over my arm, I ripped his baby tooth out! It was the only fight I ever won with him. And it was worth it. He had tee ball pictures the day after. It was really devastating and hilarious at the same time. He loves my tooth tattoo.

Format: Do you think a woman with tattoos can have class?
Shannon Brooke: Sure, class is a proper attitude and when needed a lady could turn it on at any time.

Format: What do you think a tattoo says about an individual?
Shannon Brooke: It shows the world that they are a creative person, but they can say and mean a world of things. Depending on the style, certain people can think they say or mean other things. I call these people “assholes” or “ignorant” or “non-creatives.” We are all judgmental and if one is to get visible tattoos, weird looks and comments are going to happen. Comes with the territory.

Format: Do you enjoy photographing tattoos?
Shannon Brooke: I do, although I am not a big fan of leg tattoos on women. It breaks the lines of the legs, and straight bodylines are very important for pin-up photography. They just seem to be very distracting to me. On the other hand, if a lady has legs covered in tattoos like Kat Von D, it works. She was insanely gorgeous, and one of my favorite girls I have ever shot.

Format: Where do you show your work?
Shannon Brooke: I am not a big fan of shows. It’s a lot of work to put everything together, and it’s very costly. I would rather show my work in magazines, coffee table books, and catalogs. Showing my work in an article makes me the most content; I want people to see my work next to my words.

Format: What is your background/training?
Shannon Brooke: I attended Saddleback College and then graduated from Brooks Institute of Photography with a BA. Other then that, I learn by doing. My old boss Jesse James once told me, “School gets in the way of learning.” In a huge sense he was right. Everything I learned as I was shooting helped me develop my style.

Leah Satlin

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