WORDS Kate Harrold
I’m often asked about my inspiration and where my ideas come from. I find those questions hard to answer. I could say that I’m influenced by surrealist painters like Dali and Magritte or photographers like Man Ray, because, of course, I am. But my ideas don’t come from studying art history, and they don’t appear to me in dreams. I have to search for the right answer.
As I sit here trying to think about the best way to describe the direction of my work and where my influences have come from, I’m distracted. There is news of terrorist attacks in London, investigations in the White House, and the U.S. pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord. The Predators won last night and tied up the series against the Penguins. (Go Preds!) I have a new image that I’m nearly done with that I can’t wait to get back to and a few prints that are waiting to be matted and framed. Above all else, what I find most distracting is the tiny human that we’ve named Max, who is kicking, elbowing, and apparently doing some sort of acrobatic routine inside my abdomen.
It occurs to me that these are exactly the things that are influencing and inspiring my work. I’ve found myself focused on the dreams and imagination of children. As I worry about the state of our country, our environment, and humanity, it is heartening to look at children, my child, as our future. Their fearlessness, innocence, and imagination are inspiring. They have the power to care for our environment, love without bias, and make decisions for themselves. It is this pureness in the face of adversity that I try and convey in my images.
On the surface, my work is sweet, playful, and whimsical. Beneath the surface are elements of looming danger, internal struggles, and dreams that are so much bigger than the subject’s current circumstances. My end goal is to create a world the child has constructed through limitless imagination, where the conclusions they draw and decisions they make are entirely their own. A toy ship lost at sea must be the result of a giant sea creature lurking in the depths below. The best way to light up the night is by gathering fireflies to guide your way home. Lions should be set free and will happily follow your lead. Shooting for the stars isn’t just a mantra, but an achievable reality in a child’s world. The same can be said for an impending flood and a makeshift “ark,” or the moment a hunter comes face to face with what might have been her prey.
I want an emotional reaction to my work, whether it makes you happy for the courage of youth or sad and sentimental for the innocence and memory that still live in you as the viewer. I’m photographing real children, real places, real animals, and weaving these images together until the story told becomes a blurred mixture of reality, dreams, and imagination. I’m telling stories about who these children are and all the places they go in their imagination and later on in life. Their minds and their future are wide open, and that is a wonderful thing.