Tell us a little about yourself and when you began your photography career.
I am a self-taught visual artist primarily using the medium of photography. Traveling and adventure bring happiness for my soul, golf and Pilates give joy to my body, aromatic coffee and delicious seafood fill my energy, while museums and music feed my artistic inspiration.
I am a daughter and mom at a distance, as they are in Russia, and at the same time a wife to my husband on a daily basis. I lived and worked in Russia as the chief of a bank department until March 2013 when I came to Maine. During my first summer my husband showed me the coast of Maine, with its incredible beauty everywhere. A camera was his gift at the end of 2015 and since then my view of the world has been made through lenses. Photography was a hobby for my father and I remember the smell of chemicals from being with him in his darkroom. Who knew that after more than 35 years from my first brief touch of photography,
I would become an artist and visual art started playing a significant
role in my life.
How has your American experience affected your art?
Believe it or not, America made me an artist. As a travel lover,
I wanted to visit a few places in the States, but still America was not
my dreamland. Neither was wanting an American man as a husband. (Big Smile)
Magic happened and one weird Mainer brought me to the vacationland. I feel happy with him here in Maine. I got a camera and I have time to immerse in the beauty wherever I find myself … so this is how this bank manager started the new step in life and became a visual artist.
Any words of wisdom from your early career that have stayed
I do keep my principle “do not talk about plans and projects until I have done it or an official announcement is made.” I can add that I worked with clients all my career as a manager, so the way I treated them I carry now for my new clients. I love to give joy and happiness to the people.
When you go out to shoot, do you a have specific scene in mind
or are you on an adventure of exploration and discovery?
Yes, I do have a vision of my artwork in mind and the hunting process to catch the shots as a base of future creation, I adore too. Visualization is part of my creative process.
What do you love about photography, or what drives you to photograph things?
Abstract photography gives me the ability for endless creativity, to see and show the world beyond reality, transform it to a dreamlike world. I am happy that I found the way to express myself through this style.
What is it about an idea or the elements of a scene that say, “Shoot it!”?
I do value being intuitive and spontaneous and I usually have a camera close to me so if something magic appeals, I am ready. Rather than the scene, it’s intuition that gives a signal like “Shoot it.”
Almost all of your work relies on layers of different transparency intersecting and at play, whether they be color or edges and form. Your ship pictures exhibit a painterly and dream-like quality—a gauzy kind of feeling, as if things are being revealed and yet still partly hidden. How do achieve the brushed look of the skies, for example? Have you ever been a painter?
May I invite you for a walk on the coast at sunrise or sunset time and
I will show to you how. The magic of photography is the ability to make images that your eyes do not see. The camera for me—like an instrument for a musician or a brush for painting—is the means to
create an image of my vision. I use intentional camera movement (ICM) with slow shutter speed to achieve this effect. The small touch in
the post-process and printing on the textured paper give you a nice organic feeling when you are holding and looking at the final artwork. You are correct, I did practice a little bit of watercolor before I took up the camera.
There is a hint of Kandinsky in your colorful abstracts. Who are the abstract artists you most like?
Picasso, genius Picasso!
The color in the abstracts is quite intense and altogether different from your sailing ships. Do the abstracts express a different side
The sailing ships are an example of an impressionist abstract. You are correct, my other abstract series are different shades of Olga Merrill. As my Harbor series and Poetic Blue, moody and blurry, reveal some of my inner world, as Urban Spirits and Immersion reveal my constant desire of discovery. I love to be in nature with nobody around, the same as I love to visit a metropolis for concerts, museums. The cozy time at home I love the same as a huge big party. Double and multi-exposure in photography, being a citizen of both countries, having family in different continents, so my doubling is part of me and it’s my dynamism.
Do the abstracts begin with a certain element or image? Ice melting?
As Pablo Picasso said, “There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.”
So, what helps me to immerse in the surreal world? My abstracts are based on different real wonderful moments in life. May I share some example with a bit of humor?
A glass of wine is an important part of the creative process, as is to push “save” button at the right moment and usually this moment is in the deep night. I go back to look at the image in the morning et voila—I love this piece. Perhaps one key tool is wine from Piemonte, Tuscany, Bordeaux. If they do not work, then vintage Porto.
I am a fan of gourmet food and if it is created by a master with delicious taste and great presentation I can say it’s a piece of art, which I adore and inspires me for my art.
What attracts you to the inanimate things you photograph?
I want to animate them! (smile)
The boat relaxes in the harbor when a fisherman goes home, the walls of a university stand guard for treasure and I can go on and on … I think about boats, walls as something alive, they have their own attitude
Do you believe in magic or a supernatural force that dwells inside the inanimate things you photograph?
What does the shape of a sail remind you of? Do you see the similarity with shape of a cathedral? What do we feel inside of cathedrals?
Maybe the special spirits that heal the soul ... Sailing is a metaphor for human life.
What story are you conveying with your abstracts?
Despite that I partially advocate that not all photos must have a story, some of my series I feel do have stories. And still I leave the intrigue
and room in my works for your own imagination, that you are cordially invited to bring!
Your career is recent. Has there been an evolution in your work?
The first two years I was like an over-caffeinated woodpecker clicking at the shutter button, so let that we not count this couple of years. At the end of 2017, I set a high goal for myself to be an artist. When people will see my art and say, “These works are by Olga Merrill,” then I will feel I am on the right path.
Now, my works are in private collections, have been exhibited in nice galleries in the U.S.A. and in Europe, and I had a solo show last year. This summer my art is part of exhibitions: “Our Maine” at Archipelago Island Institute, Artemis Galley in Northeast Harbor, and the Thos. Moser Freeport Showroom + Art Gallery's "The Art of the Maine Woods."
Maine celebrates 200 years of statehood this year and I am happy to contribute with my art to show how wonderful Maine is, the place where I became an artist.
What does being an artist mean to you?
Being an artist is being part of the artist community. Art and artists reflect what is going on in society and our planet. I do believe art has a power, a healing power for positive change in the world, and I think my art has some energy I would like to contribute.
What do you hope to give people through your art?
May I answer with my work A Sail, with words by Mark Twain:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
. . .
Favorite Maine restaurant?
Back Bay Grill in Portland.