Inspiring Moments

What inspires you to take out your camera and capture a scene, subject or a moment in time? We have asked the same question to some professional photographers, and report their feedback below.

As photographers, we can be inspired by many things before capturing the image. There are a lot of theories about how to take amazing, inspiring photographs. Some people think that having great gear will create amazing photographs. They buy the latest top of the range cameras, lenses, flashes, tripods, and look at technical specs like having the highest ISO… anything that they think will give them the competitive edge in taking great photographs.

In reality, inspiring photography could be great natural light or the light shift on a scene to facial expression or the look in someone’s eyes. Maybe it’s a combination of a subject and situation. Alternatively, it could be to record-breaking news to share with the world. Whatever it is, photography grants us the ability to record a moment in time, create beautiful images of our own to share with the world. 

While we think about what inspires our photography let’s read what inspires other photographers in their work as well

Lawrence Jackson
Former White House Photographer

My sources of inspiration with photography varies from day to day, week to week, month to month and so on. But the last few months I’ve been coming back to the work of my fellow 2018 Xposure colleague J. Henry Fair. His abstract pictures on the environment and the effects of global warming have struck a chord with me. Both for the visual beauty, stark contrast, big impact and other-worldly nature of his work I am constantly drawn into his pictures. The beauty of his work is that it’s so abstract you don’t think it’s real sometimes. But upon further examinations  you see that it is real and you are looking at some part of the world that is in danger or causing the danger to our environment. Our planet. His work inspires me to see differently when possible. That’s one of the highest compliments a photographer can give to another photographer.

der Blaue Reiter
Waste Impoundment at Arctic iron mine
J Henry Fair

Dr. Yan Preston
Documentary Photographer 

In 2018 I had an intense time, publishing two monographs and dealing with all the relevant issues. By November I was mentally and physically exhausted. I was almost forgetting why taking so many heavy burdens. Going to Xposure at Sharjah turned things around. Meeting so many passionate photographers from so many different practices reminded me again why I wanted to be a photographer initially. If anything, it is to connect with people while tell our collective stories with our hearts and eyes. Every aspect of the festival was perfect, I particularly enjoyed the networking, the shows and the beach. I came home refreshed and re-energized. Now I’ve just spent Christmas reading Sir Don McCullin’s biography. Still can’t believe that I met him at Xposure! Looking ahead into 2019, I’ll convert the inspiration into deep time in photography again, step by step, frame by frame. 

A lone woman in chador, in front of a banner picture of Ayatollah Khomeini, Tehran.
January 1979
David Burnett

Douglas Dubler
Fashion, Beauty & Fine Art Photographer

“Mystic Dawn & The Raven”   This was an image that I created while attending Xposure 2018. I used it as the final image in my lecture and presentation of Leonardo da Vinci’s artistic maxim, “See the Unseen”. I felt that since it was an identifiable local place, the photographers in the audience would be able to relate to it even more. As part of the creative process, I think all artists look for inspiration when creating. For me and this image, it was a synergy of the exotic location, the jet lag which enabled me to get up at 5 A.M. and last and most important, the overwhelming positive energy that I felt from everyone involved in the event, producers, attendees, and other participating photographers. Through this image and my memories of Sharjah, I came away from Xposure 2018 all the richer for the experience. 

Mystic Dawn & The Raven
Douglas Dubler

Essdras M Suarez
Photojournalist & Street Photographer

During my two decades as a Photojournalist, I had to cover a lot of extreme situations such as natural and man-made disasters, conflict and war. I also covered a lot of national and local news that had to do with the loss of life. All of these do take a tool in the psyche of the journalist.
So whenever, I’d get the opportunity to photograph normal life in whatever shape or form it took in front of my lens I’d jump at the opportunity. For, I learned that while photographing the ebb and flow of daily life is when I am at my happiest. Plus, the act itself seems to have a cathartic and healing on my tired soul. The specific photo I selected tends to make audiences smile. And, in my profession,  I’ll take a smile over a tear any day. This image was part of an epic project I did several years ago for the Boston Globe called “Crossing Divides.” The writer and I chose 4 journeys in different parts of the world:
  • Sudan to Egypt while crossing the desert and following the shores of the Nile through the old Salt Caravan roads.
  • Southern Venezuela to Northern Brazil into Amazonia. Where we hung out with gold miners, farmers and Amazonian cowboys and river doctors.
  • Cambodia into Laos. Where we crossed the biggest set of rapids in the world, the Khong Falls between Cambodia and Laos while hanging out with rice farmers and fishermen.
  • Chukotka, Russia to Wales, Alaska/ USA. Where we hung out with reindeer herders, seal hunters, and Inuit whale hunters.
Throughout our journeys, all we did is to document daily life. We didn’t look for the extraordinary or the out of the norm. And when we did cover such instances it was simply because serendipity would intervene and would put these in our path. It was during this project that my true love for Street and Travel Photography truly flourished.


Rio Branco
On the bridge of his father’s boat on the Rio Branco. The pilothouse ins Madson’s playground and the crew his playmates.
Essdras M Suarez/ Boston Globe

Keith Berr
Advertising & Commercial Photographer

I work in the advertising industry creating photographs that are married to headlines, images that need to tell a story quickly. One photo in particular that has inspired me and has been extremely effective in telling a story is titled “Salt Devil”. I created this photograph in 2011 of a man on his motorcycle, after making an unsuccessful world speed record run, at the Bonneville Salt Flats. It is a story of despondency and pain. The Salt Flats is a historic landmark that is on the brink of destruction, due to big business exploiting its chemical resources for monetary gains.

The image “Salt Devil” caused me to realize that I could create awareness for the Salt Flats plight, by producing a campaign of photographs, to help save this unique place in the world.

Photographs are powerful tools that can be effectively used to push forward a message to influence and inspire others,

I joined an existing group called the Save The Salt organization and for 8 years have produced photographs in this ad campaign series. “Salt Devil” was my inspiration in creating other imagery with an attitude, that move people to take notice and help to fund a coalition to save a monument that will be lost forever if action is not taken.


Salt Devil
A lonesome rider contemplating his run on the wet salt at Bonneville’s Speedweek.
Keith Berr

Beno Saradzic
Multi-Specialist Visual Artist

It’s not easy for me to explain why I love being a photographer. I’m not a photojournalist or an environmentalist. I’m not in it to move the masses or to change the world with my shots. I never felt the need to go into a warzone to take pictures of the horrors of war, or, to document the human destruction of nature. For me, this stuff is too heavy, too depressing to be around it. Sad, horrible stories and subjects could never inspire me to become a photographer.

My interest in photography comes without the attached mission, spiritual purpose or higher agenda; I simply love and appreciate the beauty in any shape or form, be it natural or man-made. I feel the need to find the symmetry, the message, the light, the moments, the patterns, the textures, the balance and the right proportions in the space which surrounds me. It comes from within.

As the process of seeing, photography is a very primeval thing for me. I use my camera to seek for the order in the seeming randomness of nature and in deliberate intent of the man-made design. It’s a hunt, a chase of some sort; seeking and finding the ideal photographic composition, waiting patiently for the light and colours to appear. When I find such an arrangement, that perfect moment when all things are lined up in perfect harmony in the viewfinder, I take a shot. It’s rather strange, but after all these years in the business of making visuals, I still grin like a kid when I see a shot I really like. It’s still exciting and an immensely satisfying feeling.

Once Upon A Time
Beno Saradzic

Kate Brooks
Photojournalist & Filmmaker

The photograph that I cherish most is an image taken of my great grandparents in 1917 with four of their eight children. As the recognized photographer in the family, my grandmother gave me the original before she died. I am sure she knew that I would treasure and care for the print. Living in Lebanon during the 2006 War, I gave the photograph to a friend to take back to London for safekeeping as she departed on an American evacuation boat. Besides being my most cherished photograph, it’s also true to say it’s my most cherished possession. No matter how many times I look at this picture, I always contemplate the sacrifices immigrants make for their families, history, and heritage, how much the world has changed in the past hundred years and my own place on the planet. 

Taken around the time of the Russian Revolution and towards the end of WWI, these children from another era – seemingly disconnected from this one, were hugely influential in my life and gave me my sense of family. My Aunt Grace – the toddler sitting on my great grandmother’s lap – would walk two miles to collect me after school in kindergarten, first and second grade. She cooked the most delicious spaghetti dinners, always making enough to ensure every neighbor could be fed and that there would even be leftovers for my dog. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I realized I could only find pasta as good in Italy. My uncle has the face of a grown man but is a little boy standing on a box. He and his two brothers fought in WWII. My Aunt Mami – the eldest of my great aunts – lived above an Italian bakery around the corner from the house I grew up in, which also happened to be my great grandparent’s former house. Mami was deaf so we never spoke much, but having lost my hearing temporarily this past fall, I have been thinking of her every day. My Aunt Mary – the little girl to the left – was the last of my great grandparents children to pass in 2016 at the age of 106. At the age of 104, she would joke she was going to need to start lying about her age because she couldn’t hide her wrinkles sitting next to me. When I got news that she had hours to live, I flew across the country to hold her hand through the last night of her life. She lived through so much history that it’s hard to even comprehend. It’s also hard for me to believe she is gone. I’m very grateful to have this family record from a time when photography was rare and precious. 

these children from another era

Maan Habib
Documentary Photographer

My most inspiring moment was at Xposure 2018, where I had the opportunity to moderate a discussion panel with two legendary photographers, Sir Don McCullin and David Burnett, both of which I truly admire and are my inspirational photographic icons.
So far as inspirational photographs I would say it is one of the photographs exhibited as David Burnett’s “44 Days” that showed a large crowd of women in chador, outside the Refah School, Tehran, where Ayatollah Khomeini made his headquarters after returning from France and featured a woman looking through binoculars directly towards the lens. I had the opportunity to further discuss this image in depth with David Burnett during a private session.
My impression of this great photo was the feeling of anticipation that David Burnett managed to deliver to us through this captured moment. 

Such images inspire me to work extra hard to become part of this group of iconic professional photojournalists who convey important stories by a snapshot of time which is worth a thousand words.


from 44 Days
David Burnett

J Henry Fair
Environmentalist and Photographer

My greatest reward and inspiration come from someone telling me that my art changed their life, or way of seeing the world. The other sources of inspiration for me are the people that made the great art that moves me, in spite of the personal obstacles they faced.

Photography is about telling stories, and it’s the narrative that interests me, more than the technical aspects of the medium. Narratives are as old as language, and as human as walking on two legs. We tell stories to entertain, to inform, to persuade, and to bond with each other. I tell stories about things that affect people, whether environmental issues that will affect us in the future or social issues, especially racism, that affect society in the present.


Hidden Costs
J Henry Fair