Back to Writing / 3-20-2007


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We all have our own definition of sexy, and for photographer Shannon Brooke, a woman is never more seductive than when she is costumed in retro glamour and draped across a classic car. Hot rod gals and Hollywood pin-ups continue to make a comeback in the art world, and Brooke's style, lighting, concepts and direction put her at the top of the class. We spoke with Brooke about discovering her version of "hot," styling reality to match her mind's eye, and capturing it all on film.

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Sez G: What about retro women are you drawn to?

Shannon Brooke: There is something intriguing about pinups from the 40's through the 60's. They seem so innocent with their childlike smiles and rosy cheeks, although their clothes are falling off or completely see through.

For me it is the contradiction of naughty and nice within the same image. It is sex appeal empowering the model while displaying her personality and class.

Sez G: You're a self proclaimed "porn-hater." What is it about porn that you hate?

Shannon Brooke: I feel like in a perfect world, having sex is not only to reproduce, but to show your unconditional love to another person. It is so sad that the porn industry has turned it into a job you can make millions off of. Of course, I know it isn't a perfect world, but if we could do away with porn I think more people wouldn't be so desensitized and would maybe treat their lovers with more respect.

Sez G: Do you have a stylist on set? Who does the fabulous retro hairdos?

Shannon Brooke: Yes, I always have at least one stylist for the shoots. Jennifer Corona is my partner in crime and has mastered the art of makeup from the 40's glam as well as special effects. She also helps me with styling and concepts. Without her I am a whole lotta nothing!

I use a few people for hair including Christine Barnum, Monique Wentworth, and Liz Larios, all of whom have individual strong points. Christine and Monique are very creative from punk to retro, and Liz masters the art of the retro do, especially the 1940's style.

Sez G: Why do you think sexy tattooed chicks look so good in classic cars?

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Shannon Brooke: Tattoos or not, a hot chick with a hot car is every man's dream…right? The two things that guys live for!

Sez G: You worked with Eros Zine favorite David Perry on his book Hot Rod Pin-Up. What did you learn from that experience?

Shannon Brooke: I learned that networking with people in the industry gets you more jobs then anything else…even your portfolio. David is a very smart man, and I am very lucky to have watched him work.

I learned to make the best out of a situation…if it is hot outside and the girls makeup is running, keep shooting. Always have fun….this is your life, photography is 24/7, you better love it! I also learned that location permits are for wussies!! Shoot and run! Ha ha!

Sez G: Renegade! You've said one of your favorite models to work with is Sabina Kelley. How did you two meet?

Shannon Brooke: I met Sabina after a shoot with Heidi Van Horne. Sabina was at Heidi's house one day and saw the CD I sent to Heidi with all the images. I make CD's super cute with a thank you note and a personalized cover with the model's best shot…Sabina said she saw that and was like "I want one of those!!" I am sure Heidi recommended me to her and I shot Sabina at the school studio at Brooks. That day we hit it off; she is so sweet and funny I couldn't get enough of her!

Sez G: So what makes a great model to you, and do you have any other muses?

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Shannon Brooke: I think a great model knows her angles and moves within my guidelines. I normally have a concept that I share with the girls before the shoot and they have to act out my vision. There are a few girls who are really good at posing around my concepts, including Frankie Sin, Darenzia, Heidi Van Horne, Angela Ryan, Louva, Amie, and Monica (Hollywood Geisha).

Sez G: You've said that having a scar on your face left you to "never really feel pretty" growing up. How has your self perception and your view on beauty changed as you've matured?

Shannon Brooke: I feel like true beauty comes from within, as cliché as it sounds. To be honest, I would rather work with a model who is a little overweight and a total sweetheart (Photoshop is so easy!) then a girl that looks like Barbie with a snotty attitude. Of course there are those jobs where I have no choice, but I do have my favorites, and they are all my closest friends. I even test models I bring in to West Coast Choppers. I only want the ladies that will be fun to work with.

Sez G: Speaking of West Coat Choppers….You do a lot of shooting for the superstar motorcycle company. How did you hook up with them?

Shannon Brooke: I met Jesse's personal assistant Kelli through my friend and amazing photographer Marco Patino. It is all about networking, I tell you! Anyways, I landed the job two weeks before graduating from Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara. Jesse wanted a female photographer and Kelli recommended me.

Sez G: Tell me about one of your most memorable shoots.

Shannon Brooke: I have to say my shoot with Heidi Van Horne at Santa Ynez Airfield. We shot with a 1950 Reconnaissance Airplane, and to this day I know that is the best pin-up shot I have ever produced. I couldn't believe I was shooting with an airplane! It was amazing…. It was the second shoot I did with Heidi, and the first time I had ever worked with Jennifer Corona for makeup. I definitely made two friends for life that day.

To learn more about Shannon Brooke, visit

Shannon Brooke - by Sez G.