I remember the first time I met Marilyn Suriani. I was instantly taken in by the diminutive fireball. Marilyn wore a cloud of black curls around her head and a smile on her face that hinted at her wry sense of humor. She was everything I thought a photographer should be—and that was before I saw even one of her photos.
As soon as I could, I searched for her works on the web and learned Marilyn is very well known, particularly around Atlanta, for her business portraits, many of which grace annual reports and, I imagine, corporate boardrooms. Her photos, as any artist would expect, speak volumes with their two dimensional mouths. Having had the opportunity to meet face to face with a couple of her subjects, I knew Marilyn had created not only a fine, well-lit, and complimentary portrait, but also had captured the essence of the person in the photo. One is a proud US Congressman with a history of fighting for civil rights, rendered in black and white, of course. Another is a hard charging state-of-the-art technology company CEO who’s smile and setting—a soft focus garden background—reveal his easy-going manner.
Soon, I was fortunate to see more of Marilyn’s work. Her photos hang in the Atlanta Airport and selected photos from her documentaries on storefront churches, exotic dancers (Dancing Naked in the Material World), and women in prison are viewable on her website.
There is considerable similarity between photography and creative writing. Both represent attempts to capture the world around us, one with light the other with words; while photojournalism may be a combination of the two. I’ve not yet attempted anything quite as ambitious, but I am inspired by the concept and Marilyn’s capabilities. Once she told me, “don’t worry, everyone takes the same shots”. Something distinguishes her work, though, something that appeals to me, and that, so far, is just beyond my reach. But I’m not giving up.