Biography - Merle Somerville

Merle Somerville has been photographing landscapes for over 30 years. His passion for finding the perfect image, has lead him to photographing more than 150 parks located throughout British Columbia, United States, Australia, Central America and the South Pacific. Since completing his Canadian Master’s in Photography in 1978, his work has been published by several national magazines, tourism marketers and recently the Knowledge Network celebrating British Columbia’s 150th Anniversary. Merle’s first solo exhibition was in Vancouver in 1999, followed by several other exhibitions featuring his large-format panoramic images of American National Parks.

Often revisiting each location several times to capture the perfect light, Merle can be found with his favorite tool— his wide-format Fuji 6cmx17cm Panorama film-based camera. Saying he prefers the panoramic format of film to digital because “That’s how your eyes see a landscape”. Merle’s early work was strongly influenced by Ansel Adams. Merle shares Adams’ passion for nature and the “straight photography” made popular by the famous group known as Group f/64 (of which Adams was a member).
Although Merle was a successful commercial photographer and owner of a professional photo lab for twenty years, he is best known now for his photo-based artwork. With the emergence of digital imaging and the various effects made possible by the digital darkroom, Merle’s new work has begun to show influence of a pictorialism style (a movement of the early 20th century which subscribed to the idea that art photography needs to emulate the painting).

In 2007 Merle located to the South Okanagan to pursue his creative study of the BC’s wine country. His first body of work featuring BC viticulture showcased coloured-sepia landscapes and still life. This work won him high praise from his peers and was selected for the prestigious Fidelis Art Prints, “Vineyard Art Collection” in 2008.

Merle continues to photograph his landscapes alternating between straight photography and pictorialist styles (selecting the style that best suits each subject and body of work). Asking him what matters most for him when considering his artwork, he says, “No greater reward exists for me than to produce a photograph that expresses my thoughts and emotions—and to have those felt and understood by someone else.”