The Images That Made Me

Welcome to the first in a new series of profiles from Darklight Art: The Images That Made Me.

How much does imagery help shape the person we become? Which photographs are the ones we remember as changing us in some way – creatively, personally, professionally – or simply as marking the passage of time?

We ask industry leaders, artists and experts in visual culture to talk us through the five photographs that have brought them to where they are now. Think Desert Island Discs, but make it art.

Sarah Williams | The Images That Made Me
Sarah Williams | Darklight Art Co-Founder

First up is Sarah, who launched Darklight Art back in 2020 alongside co-founder Mimi. Sarah represents the light in Darklight, but in order to dig a little deeper into what inspires her, we’ve asked: what were the images that made you?


Cigarette No.11, Irving Penn [1972]

This image was completely formative to me and my creative eye. It was the first time I’d seen an image of a traditionally-unpleasant subject and thought how incredibly beautiful it looked. As Mimi will tell you, I reference it all the time. It takes the skill of a great photographer to find beauty in the mundane or the ugly and to make you love it, like I do. 

Oliviero Toscani [1989], for United Colours of Benetton

At the time, all the adverts that came from Benetton were so affecting. I remember the controversy over them. They were bold and colourful [obviously]. I had never seen anything like them. They made such a big impact on mainstream media and were very controversial at the time, but tackled some real issues head-on. I loved that.

A real game changer for my creative eye

Debbie Harry, Brian Aris [1981]

Sometimes the simplest image can blow you away in a totally unexpected way. I wouldn’t call myself a Debbie Harry fan. I don’t know a huge amount about her. But as I was walking around Proud Gallery I saw this image and it literally took my breath away. I think it’s because all the other images you see of her, she’s glammed up, punk rock hair, big make up, or on stage performing. But I feel like, with this image the photographer has captured something really deep in her. He’s broken her down. Everything from her simple wardrobe, her stance and her powerful stare straight down the lens. And those cheekbones…

I believe this might have been where my love of light began…

Burning Man, photographer unknown

I remember the first time I saw images of Burning Man. I was transfixed. This image is wild. Is it an apocalypse? Mad Max? At first you think it’s an old photo until you notice the bikes and backpacks. The composition, the urgency, the drama, the dust, the fun, the kid leading the way. It’s magic and inspired me to travel to Nevada not once, but twice to experience it for myself. And it did not disappoint. 

Lisa Ratliffe with pink pastel cat, Tim Walker [2000]

I can’t tell you exactly when my obsession with pastel colours started, but it was around the time I saw this image [or so my instagram feed tells me]. Tim Walker’s images are complete magic to me. This being one of the most paired back of his dreamy otherworldly creations. And so I believe this might have been where my love of light began. 



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