Someone asked me once, “What inspires you to make an image, to get out of the house and go photographing, to think photographically?”

The resulting images did not have to be art, but, of course that is a nice result. What is important is that the image was made, the scene captured, the journey taken.

I am inspired by several things: a wonderful face, unique light, depression.

Now, don’t laugh at that last one. When I lived in Eastern Oregon, my second winter was cold, grey, long. My mom had recently died and I was alone and depressed as heck. I didn’t pick up a camera for three months. Christmas day I told myself — “self ! — enough is enough — go out shooting.”

There was hoarfrost on the trees and little plants, that I found absolutely fascinating (being a California girl who had never seen hoarfrost before). So, with an old army jacket on for warmth, three pairs of socks and a pair of big sneakers, I went a’drivin’ around just absorbing the foggy white landscape.

I shot trees, windmills, grass, funny signs and dirt. I didn’t know hoarfrost could form on dirt. The river was mostly frozen as were my toes as I hopped in and out of the car. Finally I had to head home. It was getting dark, my three pairs of socks were wet and my toes hurt. An unlined Army jacket is not made for warmth in the snow, nor are sneakers.



Occasionally inspiration comes in the form of a film — in this case the old movie “The Red Shoes.”

I had an idea. I would take a pair of red ballet pointe shoes with me wherever I went and photograph them in all sorts of situations. They would start off brand-new shiny and eventually after riding around in my little SUV they would look worn and “well-traveled”. The image above is one of those RedShoes photographs. I loved those shoes. Many of the images were not very exciting but once in while, a good one came along.

Unfortunately, the RedShoes series came to an early end. I had a car accident in the which the ballet shoes were lost. I mourn that loss occasionally, but look for inspiration in other places.

Ok all you photographers out there, what inspires you?

Next time: More inspiration, how my friends answered the original question.

Lara Hartley is a photographer and writer from the High Desert of California .

“I support any procedure that allows photograhers to express themselves, whether that involves color, black and white, platinum, palladium and digital technology.”
— John Sexton