Living An Inspired Life…The People, Places & Things that inspire me


Monica Dart Photography

In the business of the wedding season, I needed to step outside the ‘wedding zone’ and pull myself back to centre.  I needed to acknowledge and take a look at the people that have inspired me (and continue to inspire me) and the things and places that inspire me….For that is the driving force behind my creativity and the way I interpret and see the world.  It’s no surprise then that the word Inspire originates from the Latin “inspirare; in — in + spirare–to breathe.  So my interpretation  means to breathe life into my photo’s. Beautiful light…shadows….movement….travel….markets…people watching….cinematography….photographers…poetry….walking….reading magazine, books, blogs……The list goes on.  And on.  I am inspired by so much around me everyday.  I want to share a little of my world and hopefully inspire you  too.

Poem by Justine Joseph, Photo by Monica Dart Photography

 Above: Taken on a street in Paris; Poem by Justine Joseph

The above photo was taken on a random street in Paris.  The other day I was having brunch with a really good friend of mine Justine Joseph.  She’s a talented writer and creates the most incredible poetry.  She suddenly had an idea that the two of us should  collaborate….she would write the poems and I would make the photos for them.   At our next catch up we were coming up with so many ideas we’ve now decided to work towards an exhibition.  She is vivacious and pro-active….I love that about her.  I love her energy.

Another friend Ian Badenhorst from “Vision On Fire” inspires me.    He created the brilliant advert for Old Khaki clothing.  So what inspired him?  “I was driving along…there was a great song on the radio…I was feeling this incredible ‘going on a road trip’ sense of freedom…and the idea popped into my head“.  Him and fellow film maker Wynand van Wyk, got the models, hired the right equipment, put a team together and shot the video.  Yes, it sounds simple…but how many of us talk about doing something….dream about…but never make it a reality?  Ian is in his early 20’s, he has this ambition and drive behind him which is so refreshing to see in someone so young.  He’s a go-getter.  He then approached Old Khaki with the video…they loved it…they bought it…and it screened in all the cinemas.  Inspiring hey?

Old Khaki “Unrestricted” Commercial – Summer 2013 from Ian Badenhorst on Vimeo.  Music by Jonsi 

 When I was in Arles in the south of France last summer, I had the privilege of going to The Rencontres d’Arles photography festival.  In one old Roman town, many photographers, some already passed away, had their work exhibited throughout the town.  In this  town, posters were plastered on every available wall showcasing which photographers would be exhibiting.  In 3 days, my friend  Charlene Schreuder and I saw close to 100 exhibitions.  The haunting spaces where stories are told through images, set the scene for the what was completely a life-changing experience.    It left me feeling overwhelmed one moment and completely inspired the next.  It had me questioning where I’m going with my photography, and I suddenly had the need to give back more to the world.  Here are few images taken on the few days in Arles…a couple to give a sense of the town and a few personal images.  Many of the photographers whose work I saw, resonated with what I was going through.

Living An Inspired Life by Monica Dart Photography

Above: One of the exhibitions was shown in a church

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Cape Town Wedding Photographer - Monica Dart - Living an Inspired Life article

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Living An Inspired Life by Monica Dart Photography

An artist Marian-Adriani glueing posters of his work on the walls around the city

Living An Inspired life by Monica Dart Photography

Rencontres Arles Photography Festival in France 2013

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photograph of photographer Charlene Schreuder

Above: Charlene Schreuder photographer taken inside one of the exhibitions

Photojournalist Robin Hammond was the reason I decided to go to Rencontres Arles.  We met a few years ago in Cape Town and have been friends ever since.  He was exhibiting his ph0to’s taken in Zimbabwe.  When Robin got his book published: “Zimbabwe: Your Wounds Will Be Named Silence,”  (Zimbabweans living on the front lines of a dictators brutal campaign to hold on to power) it really motivated and encouraged me to set the wheels in motion for my photographic book on Cuba.  His book had such an impact around the world, it was selected by Time magazine as one of the best photobooks of 2013.  That is huge.  Robin makes things happen.   He images are a voice to the people of Africa. When I’m in his company I feel motivated.  His work is raw.  He documents what is going on in Africa.  His images have purpose, they tell stories….real stories.  One early morning before the exhibitions opened, he walked around his exhibition and gave Charlene and I a personal tour, telling us about every image.  At times I felt my heart sink listening to the stories of unthinkable human atrocities.  I get to document happy moments in my work…and Robin gets to document sad moments.  Both telling a story,  yet completely worlds apart.  He is proof that one person can make such a huge  difference.

Rencontres Arles - Robin Hammond - By Monica Dart Photography

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 Above: Robin Hammond at his exhibition at Rencontres Arles

 Photographer Arno Minkinnen quoted at his exhibition “What can happen inside your mind, can happen inside your camera” and “Art is risk made visible‘.  Photography in the deepest sense, is a way of expression without words…a way of the interpreting what is going on inside.  When I’m present, I can connect with what I really see and feel, in that moment.  That is usually when magic happens.

When I was in Cuba a few years ago I was wandering around all the little towns taking photos of everything around me. When I arrived back in Cape Town, I was going through all my images and realised I wanted to do a photographic book on Cuba.  As this was just an afterthought I realised I didn’t have enough material for my book.  Several years later I now feel ready to go back there and finish what I started.  I feel a little nervous about going alone, but I’m going with an open mind and without expectation.  I am just trusting that the creativity will flow and that I can fulfil this dream.  I’m heading off in June.

Living An Inspired Life by Monica Dart Photography

Above: One from my book in the making “Cuba On My Mind”

Inspiration is a temperamental thing…. Some days I feel ‘flat’, and I just go with those days.  When I feel really un-inspired, I relax on the couch  and watch a movie…or head off to the cinema for something with really good cinematography.  Suddenly it’s like I’ve been plugged in and have this bolt of inspiration…it could be something as simple as seeing a good camera angle, or a scene that triggers an idea.   Here are a few movies I’ve enjoyed that inspired me:

 Slumdog Millionaire – (lots of incredible wide shots here),  Perfune, Bright Star (Ok so I’ve watched this about 5 times now…but it’s a masterpiece),  Amelie,  Atonement (wow!),  Snow Falling On Cedars, Lost in Translation, The Piano, Kieslowski’s Tri-Color – ‘Blue’ still being my favourite.  The scene shot through the blue beads has been the a source of inspiration at many weddings and boudoir shoots.  Here is one such example which I photographed through some crystal birds:

boudoir photographer Cape Town - Monica Dart Photography

Another great source of inspiration that got me away from digital a bit, was go on a walk-about with my Holga 120N Lomo camera which you can buy from Exposure Gallery in Woodstock, Cape Town.  The are only 10 shots per roll of 120 film, and the fun bit comes in not winding onto the the next photo, but double exposing the image.  As the camera is plastic, light can leak in which can create some interesting effects.  Here are a couple of photos made in  Khayelitsha informal township.  I won my holga in London from photographer Jose Villa   I was at one of his talks and we all had to put our business cards into a hat…he pulled my name…and there was my introduction to lomography.

Lomography - Holga 120N - Monica Dart Photography - Living An Inspired Life

Above: Khayelitsha informal township

 I have a close-knit group of friends in the industry that support and inspire me. We have all grown together and encouraged each other on a professional and personal level.  Without judgement.   We are all competitors,  yet when we’re catching up you’d never think so.  Jules Morgan,…so much soul in her work  Just when I think I’ve seen it all she surprises with something new. Christine Meintjes photographer who also owns the very successful blog called The Pretty Blog, She set out with a clear vision which has grown and become a household name.  So if you’re planning a wedding or just needing something pretty to distract you when your boss is out the office…this is the blog to visit.  Then there’s Lizelle Lotter  (Zelle!) who took a 6 month sabbatical to reflect on life and spend time with family and friends.  She decided that was important to her and made it happen.  Charlene Schreuder (Chaz!)….dynamic with an incredible sense of adventure.  Deep down she’s such a romantic…check out her work and you’ll see what I mean.   Nikki Meyer photographer – a gentle soul who loves pretty things.  Her design elements and composition are amazing.  Jacki Bruniquel photographer….no one shoots quite like her….and she was all over the news when she accidentally set her hair on fire at a wedding.  She’s actually really a mermaid in disguise.  I want to acknowledge these incredible, dynamic woman. They have made being in this industry so much fun and really raised the bar.  So…connect with other photographers…like minded people that can support you and help you grow on your photographic journey.  Some other (non-wedding) photographers I’m inspired by: Cig HarveyNicola DoveBill HensonSam Taylor Wood, Maria Friberg, Sally Mann, Sara Moon, Julia Fullerton-Batton, Guy Bourdin, Gilbert Garcin

In 2012, Jules referred a client to me, a guy from Korea.  He was in Cape Town on holiday and wanted some photos taken of his trip.  I spent 3 days with him and a tour guide photographing him all over Cape Town….and that inspired Jules and I to start a little business called ” Tourist Photographers” – ‘Amazing Experiences deserve professional photographs’. That one day of shooting gave birth to a whole new business idea.

 Above: One from a documentary shoot that inspired our business “Tourist Photographers”

January 2013 was a great start to last year.  One of my friends Monique le Roux Forslund who I’ve been friends with since we were in junior school called me from Sweden with a proposition.  She was writing a cooking book on LCHF (low carb high fat) ” LCHF på riktigt : ät dig i form” (Low carb high fat for real) and she wanted me to do the photos for her book.  I had no idea about photographing food, but being completely impulsive, I jumped at the chance for a new experience.  It turned out to be 2 of the best weeks of my life.  I spent the first week in the same position, hunched over her table taking photos of all her delicious food, and the second week editing.  Monique would cook, I’d shoot, we’d eat.  We ate a lot.  And we lost weight.  And we listened to great music and laughed.  I really treasured that time.  It made me realise that no goal is too big to reach, and that the right attitude can open so many doors.  Here is Monique below writing some of her recipes, and then a couple of my favourites I photographed for the book.

LCHF på riktigt : ät dig i form

Above: Monique relaxing and writing a recipe in her lounge

LCHF på riktigt : ät dig i form - photo by Monica Dart Photography

LCHF på riktigt : ät dig i form 

Monique and I in Sweden taking a break from her book 

Avbove: An instagramme of Monique and I in Sweden during the making of her book (that’s my really cheasy, fake smile)

Some books and magazines to consider for inspiration:

1.  Susan Sontag’s ‘On Photography’ – quite possibly one of the best books I’ve read on photography.  This is the kind of book you want to read with a highlighter in hand.   Sontag quotes “The ultimate wisdom of the photographic image is to say: ‘There is the surface. Now think – or rather feel, intuit what is beyond it, what the reality must be life if it looks this way.’ 

2.  ‘The Artist’s Way’ – “A course in discovering and recovering your creative self.”  It is said to ‘unleash your inner artist’.    I did this years ago when I was living in London, and it was only last week when I was chatting to Jules again and she mentioned the book, that I dug mine out and have started to use it again.  You start with doing ‘morning pages’…you just keep writing and writing 3 full A4 pages of absolutely anything that comes to mind.   If you hit a blank and don’t know what to write….write that!  The importance is to keep writing whatever comes to mind.

3. PDN – Photo District News.  Great magazine for keeping you up to date with what’s happening in the world of photography.  A great launch pad for up and coming photographers.

And here’s one last photo during my humble beginnings, made on film …taken from my first ever exhibition I had in Cape Town called ‘Fleeting Childhood‘.  It was 2006, I dived in completely naive and having no idea about exhibitions,…I lost a lot a lot of money, but gained a whole lot of insight into exhibitions.

Fleeting Childhood by Monica Dart

Above: ‘Lipstick in the Mirror’ – from the series “Fleeting Childhood” 2006

Do a mind-map …make a vision board.…set a goal….make this your year to count.  Inspiration is there to guide you….it’s not there to copy from, but rather to trigger off something that influences how you do something.  Do it your way.  Life is about possibilities…every day we wake up to new one’s. Live an inspired life and be open to those possibilities.

Who or what inspires you ?  I’d love to read your thoughts…. 


19 Responses to “Living An Inspired Life…The People, Places & Things that inspire me”

  1. Roberta de Lilly Cassiem 11/02/2014 at 7:17 am

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful post Moni!

    • Monica Dart 11/02/2014 at 7:21 am

      glad you enjoyed it Roberta! thanks.x

  2. Charlene 11/02/2014 at 8:12 am

    Dear Moni – I am so grateful for a lot of things. I am grateful that we can inspire each other, be on this journey together, but most of all I feel a deep sense of gratitude for whatever brought us together. You are one hell of an inspiring woman. Thank you for this post – it will be bookmarked and read on blue days.. “I’d rather see the world as a rainbow than endless shade of gray” – Amani Abbas. Here’s to many adventures and inspiration on the road ahead!!

    • Monica Dart 11/02/2014 at 8:18 am

      …and boy do we inspire each other! Forwards and upwards!x

  3. Jilda 11/02/2014 at 8:20 am

    I loved reading this blogpost Monica, as a wedding photographer, we sometimes become consumed by our work. It’s good to STOP, and enjoy our lives. Especially with the people we share it with.

    • Monica Dart 11/02/2014 at 10:06 am

      thanks understand.x.

  4. Kerry 11/02/2014 at 9:46 am

    Wow, Monica, what an amazing and inspiring post! It´s so easy to get swept away in the world of “work”, regardless of what it is you do… weddings, fashion, whatever… but then one day you realise that the work you´re doing is for other people and not for you anymore… somewhere along the line you stopped listening to yourself so much and you almost don´t recognise your imagery anymore. This is an important reminder to keep doing personal work, keep looking outside of the sphere of your “work” for inspiration and to not lose sight of your path… even if you have rent and vet´s bills to pay! 🙂 I am definitely going to try and make it to Arles this year, the exhibition looks amazing. xoxo

    • Monica Dart 11/02/2014 at 10:07 am

      how true Kerry and thanks! sometimes difficult to balance it all! Oh you must go to Rencontres Arles! It will open your mind to amazing things!! x

  5. Dee 11/02/2014 at 1:26 pm

    What a generous share Monica. Thank you. You know I love your style. I guess I also envy your freedom in a way :-). Wouldn’t give up my life for anything, but hell, I miss those travelling days!! So – travel vicariously through you and your stunning imagery. Love it.

    • Monica Dart 11/02/2014 at 2:11 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it Dee! Traveling is great but sometimes I want to trade that for a family at home x

  6. Jane 11/02/2014 at 8:28 pm

    This was a great post. Refreshing. Thoughtful. And I love your work!!

    • Monica Dart 11/02/2014 at 9:16 pm

      Thank you so much Jane. Really hoping we can meet in Sweden!x

  7. nastassja harvey 12/02/2014 at 1:33 pm

    Could not agree more with Chaz, what an inspiring woman you are, on so many levels! x

  8. nikki 17/02/2014 at 1:35 pm

    Wow, well written Moni!! Such an inspiring read with the most beautiful photographs.. well done, it is quite an accomplishment to write a blog entry with so much soul as this one!

    • Monica Dart 17/02/2014 at 1:43 pm

      thanks Nix! and you’ve inspired me. thanks for being such a great friend and amazing photographer.x

  9. Abigail 04/03/2014 at 7:43 pm

    Wow Monica. I really needed to read this right now. Thank you for sharing and inspiring

    • Monica Dart 05/03/2014 at 6:38 am

      so happy to hear that Abigail. Happy shooting.x

  10. Fiona Campbell Photography 26/07/2014 at 9:11 pm

    Thanks for this post, Moni. I am always inspired by your work which is so full of life and variety. I think my favourite of the images above is the boudoir one, and I am also inspired that you just got on a plane and went to Arles to the photo festival. Must have been amazing. Keep creating xx

    • Monica Dart 29/07/2014 at 2:53 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to read it Fiona…and I appreciate your feedback. I’s so glad you enjoyed the article…it’s important that “us creatives” keep pushing ourselves…x

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