Twenty-six years ago I exhibited my first work of photography in a joint exhibition with Marilyn Suriani.  Our work was woven from the same patchwork cloth of people on the fringes of society. We leaned on each other and protected each other from the emotional entanglements necessary to enter into other people’s lives.

The resulting exhibit, Living Our Real Lives, featured images of the homeless, exotic dancers, punks and people who, through faith or fate, were considered different. We followed each other into some of the same spaces to find the people that inhabited our images and mirrored each other in our goals as artists.

In ways that are both subtle and profound, Marilyn has evolved in her artistic vision over the past two and a half decades. I have watched in awe as her artistic path has followed divergent trails into both the highest levels of fine art creation and the most harrowing passages of human struggle. The conflict in these two directions has enhanced the work in both: one path allowing beauty to sustain the grit in the other.

She has also followed an interior path, visually and intellectually examining the most intimate secrets of her own life in a series of stunning collaged images that lay bare the effects of age and health on our bodies and minds.

Marilyn’s work over the past decades has branched like a tree of life. She has strayed from the human to the natural world and back, weaving in and out of genres as she searches for beauty in the reflecting waters of her backyard, the closed world of women in prison or the graceful slope of a woman’s head in prayer.

Her portrait of Congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis defined the power of both roles in the dignity reflected in his iconic pose while her portrait of Rolling Stones’ musician Chuck Leavell almost sang his lyrical life and spirit.

Photography is a language of composition and nuance where light and shadow form the literature of sight. We read stories into the images we see and Marilyn has become a master storyteller with her camera. Her images hold the weight of plot and narrative as they reveal quiet truths about the lives of her subjects and we discover our own truths about our capacity to care when confronted with the blunt honesty in her art.

The world in our time is defined by chaos, but within the formalized frame of a viewfinder, Marilyn finds ways to encapsulate and tame moments with the quickness of light and the snap of a shutter.

In a heartbeat she freezes time, telling us in the swirling colors of a simple lake what it means to be alive in this complex and confusing time.

Marilyn will be teaching a class on photography and the art of mixed media at the Serenbe Photography Center as a part of Atlanta Celebrates Photography. For more of her work click on this link:

And for information on the Serenbe Photography Center, go here:

all photographs © Marilyn Suriani 2010

Billy Howard

Billy Howard

Billy Howard is a commercial and documentary photographer with an emphasis on education and global health.