Making relationships one picture at a time

Alexis Barker

Submitted photo

The beauty of the counry-side in Weston County has always been an inspiration for Emily Hartinger, who always looks forward to making new friends through her photography studio. 

Walter L Sprague

Art and Culture Reporter


There was a belief in some cultures that taking a picture of an individual was taking their soul. There are still parts of Tibet and China where this belief is still active, although it has let up, for the most part, in Mexico, and with Native America. In some ways, you can easily see why it persists. After all, when we have our picture taken we want it to represent us as we are, or at least as we want to look, and I suppose that could be a part of the soul.

However, that is not exactly how Emily Hartinger views photography. She has been the owner of Skull Creek Studio since 2009 and opened her store on Main Street in 2016. For her, it’s more akin to pouring her soul into her work. While she loves photography, what keeps her going is the personal relationships she builds one client at a time. By the end of these sessions, she usually feels she has a friend, not just a customer. Emily is not trying to capture a person’s soul, but to make, if you will, a soul connection between herself and her new friend(s).

She started photography to help out a high school friend and learned the art as she went, flying by the seat of her pants. After the friend passed away, she just kept on doing it. But this was not what she had thought she would be doing at a younger age. She studied Ag Business in college and had the idea of becoming a vet. But once she found out how much she enjoyed photography the bug took over. She had found a way to “…express myself without looking crazy…” She fondly remembers dying her hair purple. That was “crazy” enough for her at the time.

Once she realized what the cost of all the camera equipment she wanted was, she also had to figure out how to make it pay for itself. Part of that process of meeting expenses and providing for her own happened as she asked some friends if they wanted to sell their crafts in her store, Skull Creek Boutique. Others came along later as the community learned what this new store was, and it has grown from there. And once more, the relationships she builds in this venture makes it all worthwhile.

Emily is always learning. She loves new experiences, and it was that, in part, that has driven her to the current level of success. In the beginning, Emily was taking pictures of the landscapes in the area, of sunsets, and ranch life. They are, in many ways, her inspiration. However, necessity has driven her to expand in the direction of portraits and weddings. She loves to take her clients out to some of the beauty of nature and do sessions there. These experiences have also opened up avenues of new skills and learning for her. Emily feels that if she is ever at a point where she is not learning anymore, as she puts it, “I better hang it up.” 

She also approaches this as a hobby turned into a business. While there are days that it does feel like work, most of the time, it still feels like a hobby, except this one pays. When she is with clients, especially when children are involved, she says, “You never know what will happen, because they’re so unpredictable.” That can provide for chaotic sessions, but she loves it and often finds the best work happens more by these sessions where unexpected can take over. She understands precisely why Bob Ross always said, “There are no mistakes, just happy little accidents.” And it’s those “accidents” that she finds most fulfilling. That is especially true when she sees one of her photographs up on somebody’s wall. Then it comes full circle, and she realizes she created something unique and beautiful. Then she sees that others appreciate it. And for that, she will always be most grateful.

Skull Creek Boutique and Skull Creek Studio are both located at 219 W Main St Newcastle, Wyoming. Her facebook page, from which she gets the bulk of her business is You can also call her at (307) 746-5458 to set up an appointment.

Most of all, Emily would like people to know that her goal is to make that connection, to create that perfect image. To do that, she has to put a part of her soul into the photo. At the same time, she strives to capture the personality of the people who are in it. That’s when she makes real connections and relationships-one picture at a time.


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