5 Career-Defining Photos: KT Merry

In every photographer's career, there are defining moments. The moments that inspire an evolution in their art. The moments that open new opportunities for their business. The moments that remind them of where they have been and where they are going.

In this blog series, Richard asks film photographers to share the stories behind five frames throughout their career that most embody these instances. Today, photographer KT Merry shares the moments that shaped her path as a fine art film photographer, from embracing imperfection to taking creative control to following a lifelong goal of conservationism.

Destination Wedding in Anguilla, the Carribean, 2013

This image was shot for a destination wedding at what is now the Four Seasons. Prior to the wedding day, we had arranged to do an engagement session on the island to take advantage of the beautiful landscapes and our very photogenic couple. For me, engagement sessions are a great opportunity to incorporate my fashion photography background into my wedding work by adding an editorial/lifestyle feeling to images. This session was no different, and at the end of the session, near sunset, I asked the couple if they would be willing to do handstands in the ocean. The bride was hesitant, but with some encouragement, agreed to do it--once. I got only two frames off with my less-than-speedy Contax 645. When the film came back, I was happy about this image but a bit disappointed to see some movement in the feet, which are not quite crisp. The perfectionist in me kept this image shelved for some time, and later, after receiving an overwhelmingly positive response when I posted it on social media, I decided to add this image to my print shop. I’ve been taught many lessons in my career and this image reminded me that perfectly executed images aren’t always the ones that resonate most.

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Destination Wedding in the Maldives, 2014

In 2014 we shot in the Maldives for Peony and Richard’s multi-day destination wedding. It was a dream wedding, dream couple, and dream location--something I had worked very hard towards. I took full advantage to shoot as much as possible during our stay on the island and encouraged the couple to shoot even more than we were contracted for. This shot involved dragging this prop boat off the beach, having several men try to steady it in the shallow of the beach while the couple climbed aboard in their rehearsal dinner outfits. Luckily, everyone stayed dry and this shot went on to grace the cover of Martha Stewart Weddings. It is still one of my all-time favorite weddings and images. It came at a time in my career where I really took control and responsibility to create the images I had envisioned. 

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*Render Loyalty Project, Africa, 2016

I have been an animal lover and conservationist at heart my entire life, and I always felt there would be a time in my life, after some success and finally ‘making it’, when I would devote more of my time to endangered species and give back in a meaningful way. Like a lot of people, I’m not sure when I imagined I would get around to making a difference, but in 2016, I found myself reading an article about Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino left in the world, who was under 24-hour protection to ensure he wasn’t poached. In that moment, I knew the world wasn’t going to wait for me to ‘make it’, and that my contribution (while maybe not as large as I’d like it to be) needed to start now. Since that moment, I’ve traveled to Africa several times, together with my husband and business partner, Chad. We’ve partnered with three of the top leaders in conservation to create fine art photographic series of threatened species that donate 20% of all sales back to the organization where the image was taken. This project is called Render Loyalty and was my first step in combining my greatest passions to make a difference in the world. Since our launch, we have donated over $30,000 back to wildlife conservation. You can learn more about Render Loyalty here or follow @renderloyalty.

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Kate Upton & Justin Verlander's Wedding in Tuscany, 2017

This image was shot at Castiglion del Bosco in Tuscany in late 2017 for the wedding of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander, planned by Lisa Vorce. It was an honor to work with Lisa on this wedding with such a talented couple and magical location. Shooting film and digital side by side (the image here is digital) presents workflow and creative decisions and challenges. For instance, this image needed to be turned around the morning after the wedding for publication. Having one of my digital images represent this wedding was humbling, as my medium of choice is film. Shooting the Phase One system on this wedding was challenging and rewarding for me. I really enjoy pushing beyond my comfort zone, finding it’s often where my best work is created.

Editorial for Flutter Magazine in Paris, 2018

This image was shot in Paris during an editorial shoot for Flutter Magazine. This gorgeous Marchesa gown styled by Gabrielle Hurwitz became the star of the show, with its intricate detail and bold colors. Marchesa featured several of these images on their Instagram and this one became their most-liked image ever with over 56k likes! This image is significant as it came to fruition near the end of the shoot, when most of the scripted shots had already been taken. I had an idea to visit this bridge and see what we could make there, and I often find my favorite work is born from these circumstances: taking a leap without a lot of expectations and simply having fun behind the camera.