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Q&A: MELISSA MILLER
Melissa G. Miller is a photographer, student, and mom, living in Seattle. Photography came about for her as a way to explore her creativity. She’s done work for Open Arms Perinatal Services, PALS Doulas, and Thrive By Five’s “Love.Talk.Play” campaign. She recently took the Assignment & Editorial Photography class (being offered again this fall) here at Photo Center, and produced the images and video seen below. We are so glad that she was able to find inspiration and cultivate her passion while enrolled in our classes. You can visit her website here, and watch this ongoing project progress.
What about Editorial and Assignment work appeals to you?
Visual storytelling and photojournalism has always appealed to me. I did some pro bono photography assignments for a non-profit, helping with branding and creating a visual documentary to tell their story. When the opportunity arose, I took the Digital I class at PCNW and specifically chose Matthew Williams as my instructor because of his background in photojournalism. I wanted an instructor who worked in the field I was interested in, to gain more knowledge and see if that was the direction I wanted to pursue. At the end of Digital I, Matthew encouraged me to try his Assignment & Editorial Photography course because of the interests I expressed in the work I produced for that class.
How did you decide on postpartum depression as a topic to explore?
I had postpartum depression after the birth of my second child. In our A&E class, we were encouraged to select a topic that we had a personal connection with. My experience with PPMD was very much a part of me and I decided to suggest it. It was one of two ideas I presented and it was the one idea I was encouraged to pursue. Matthew also encouraged me to include audio, and I now have so much appreciation for that suggestion. I had no experience working with audio and expressed this, but he had confidence in me, so I ran with it.
What is your approach to learning about each woman’s experience and telling their individual stories?
I used the Yahoo parents group for the neighborhood I live in, drafted a letter stating I was doing a visual project for my photography class at PCNW, and was seeking women who have or had PPMD. I mentioned I was looking to create a project that would not only help empower and encourage women, but also educate our community about PPMD and hopefully eliminate the stigma associated with it. I was blown away when I received 15 responses to my email. I then met with each woman and left my camera at home, as I wanted to meet them and hear their story first. I explained to them my project and asked if they were comfortable posing for a portrait and recording an experience or moment that resonated in them regarding their experience with PPMD. I let them choose what they wanted to share. I then scheduled a time to meet again and had them share the experience in their home. I wanted them to feel this moment before I photographed them. I then chose a place in their home for the portrait. Often it was just a feeling I had, sometimes it was a place that reflected my own experience with PPMD, and sometimes it was something that reminded me of the experience they shared with me. It was different each time. I am glad I could give them an opportunity to share something they have not been comfortable sharing with anyone else.
Do you feel you use what you learned in the Assignment and Editorial class in the work you are doing now?
Yes, extremely. It has given me confidence, it has opened my eyes to seeing in a different way and really think about what it is I am trying to achieve. The combination of learning the works of other photographers, meeting editors and other photojournalists, and the critiques with classmates has helped me to grow and develop as a photographer. I look forward to my next class at PCNW, as there is always more I can learn and people to learn from.
What do you enjoy most about being involved with PCNW?
The community. I feel it is a great environment to network, learn, and grow in. I love the fact the instructors are experienced photographers. I have appreciated all of the help I’ve received, and the support and the positive attitudes of everyone I’ve met. Originally I planned on only taking a class or two, but now, because of the experience I’ve had, I am considering entering the Certificate Program.