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Day 10: First Friday Feature – Lillian Merritt

Happy First Friday of October! It has been exactly 10 days since I started this blog challenge and this is the first 1st Friday we have come to. Because of that I would like to introduce a little series I will be doing within this challenge.

Every month on the 1st Friday I hope to feature an artist on my blog. I will include an interview and their portfolio to help promote them in their work. A very important part of being an artist is, I believe, the community we create. And since that is the case I wanted to bring our community closer together by sharing different artists with you.

To kick off this First Friday Feature series, I wanted to introduce you to my work in a new and fresh way. So please continue below to get an in-depth look at the process behind my art.

1. Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Hello! My name is Lillian Merritt, I am a fine art photographer and a storyteller. My favorite season is Winter, I drink far too much tea on any given day, and I have been dancing for sixteen years now. I love telling stories, whether that be through photography or writing, and I would absolutely love it if fairies were real. Whenever there is a beautiful sunset, I will be the first person to point it out and make everyone else look at it while taking hundreds of photos of the clouds. There is just something so beautiful about how an ending can light up the whole world and color it in such an amazing way. Journaling is my hobby and I spend far too much time on social media. I have traveled to Scotland and France and my dream city to live in would have to be Washington D.C. I have been called an old soul more times than I can count and I embrace it with every fiber in me.

2. What got you started in photography?

In 2013, almost exactly six years ago, I started photography after finding a CreativeLive online workshop of Brooke Shaden. The moment I saw her creating such dark yet beautiful art I knew I had to explore that kind of photography. I had never considered myself much of an artist outside of ballet, but from that time on I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Photography had never been anything besides weddings and portraits up until that moment. Then I realized that you could tell such intricate and deep stories within a single frame.

3. Describe your workflow, what is unique about your process?

My workflow starts with the conception of an idea. Whether through careful contemplation or from a random thought the first thing I do is write down my idea for an image. I roughly sketch what I want the image to look like and accompany that sketch with a paragraph of what is happening within the frame. Below this, I write down everything I want the image to mean and I really take the time to explore what message I want to communicate. For me the message is the most important part of the image and can either make or break it.

From there I plan my shoot and find the perfect location to accompany my idea. Since I use myself as the model most of the time, it is very easy for me to go out on the photoshoot. Capturing the image is one of my favorite parts of the process because I get to literally imagine I am a character in a completely different story than the one I am living. From there I open images from the shoot into photoshop and edit them together to create the final product. I can spent anywhere from 2 hours to 15 hours working on an image, it really depends on how difficult or delicate the concept is.

After it is finished, I write a caption to accompany it on Instagram and write a blog post for it. Writing about the image is something I do, not to tell others what it means, but to continue the story outside of the frame. Yes an image is worth a thousand words, but sometimes a thousand words are necessary for the photo. The most unique part of my process is probably naming the image. I typically choose a word from a foreign language or an obscure English word as the photos name. For me this creates an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue.

4. What do you enjoy most about creating an image?

I mentioned above that I really love the photoshoot and that is true because there’s something so magical about shedding who I am and taking on the role of a different person. I can become a character in a fairy tale and do unimaginable things through my photography and that is a really special part of it. However, recently I discovered that my favorite part is seeing a print. There is something so mind blowing about seeing a digital creation in print. That used to be just a mere concept in my mind, yet there it is in my hands. I would have to say that is the part I enjoy the most about creating.

5. What camera equipment do you use? What have you used in the past?

Currently I use the Sony A7R II with the Sigma Art 50mm lens. I must say, I could not be more happy with my Sony camera especially compared to the Canon EOS Rebel T3i camera I used to shoot with. The only other equipment I use is a tripod and a wireless remote to trigger my camera.

6. Is there a certain theme you try and express in your work? Why do you feel a need to share that?

When it comes to themes that I express in my work, I really try to communicate messages that are pressing down on my heart. This might be something I am going through currently in my life or have in the past. It also might be things inspiring me from the outside as well, such as a book or a story that a friend shares. However, over all I want to share the beauty of life. There is something beautiful in every bad situation and often something dark in every good situation. I want to show that there is beauty in darkness and in endings. And there is always, always hope. Life is beautiful and there is so much to hope for.

I share this message because we can live in a world that often seems dark and without hope. While I do not want to gloss over the more depressing parts of life, I want to show that there is beauty in everything. Even during the worst times of our lives, the sun still rises and the earth still turns. There is beauty to be found everywhere. Sometimes we just need a little reminder of that.

7. Where do you find inspiration?

For me I find inspiration in everything. Literally anything can spark an idea. There has never been one avenue in which I find my inspiration and because of that there has always been plenty to be found. My ideas often come to me based on things I have seen or experienced throughout the day. Movies, books, and music are always rich with possibilities and if I am feeling incredibly dry I will turn to those. Reading quotes off of Pinterest has also always been a great inspiration finder for me.

8. Out of your images, which is your personal favorite and why?

Choosing a favorite is like choosing between your children. In a way I love each image because they represent a part of my journey and a part of me. Even images I consider to be failures are special because they hold a part of me within them. However, if I was absolutely forced to have one favorite it would have to be the one below.

I shot this image during a convention last year in the middle of the desert. It is special to me because it really represents the moment I decided to let go of the past. There are far too many details to explain in this post, however, for years I felt like I was trapped within this moment in the past. I just could not get over it and it really effected who I was. This convention and the people there helped to let go of that moment in time and I was able to communicate that with this image. This image represents so much change and that is why it is my favorite.

9. What is the biggest piece of advice you have ever been give? What advice would you give your younger self, the you who has just started creating?

The biggest piece I have ever been given was probably given to me by my ballet instructor. During one class years ago, she was talking to the class and she made this comment which has stuck with me ever since. She said, “There’s no use getting frustrated. It will not fix anything and will only make you feel worse. You have to learn to work through the frustration.” This has kept my head on straight so many times and has really pushed me through some difficult times.

The biggest piece of advice I would give my younger self would be this, do not try to imitate others. I spent years trying to be other artists and I think it is so important that when we create we create how we want to, not how someone else creates. Developing a style is scary because it is unlike anyone else’s, however, it is such a beautiful and unique thing. Trying to be like someone else will only frustrate you because there can only be one them. Try focusing on being the only you in the world.

10. What do you hope people will take away from your images?

My hope is that whoever views my images does not see a random photograph, but sees a story that is theirs. I hope others can see my images and my stories and are reminded of their lives. I hope people see themselves in my images and are comforted by that. We are not alone in this world and through photography I hope to create connections between people. I want them to feel something and relate to that. Emotions and stories make life vibrant, I hope people see my images and are reminded of that.

Thank you for coming along with me on my first First Friday Feature blog post. Be sure to check back in during November to see the first post showcasing another artist. You will not be disappointed!

Until Next Time,
Lillian Merritt

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