Susan Merrell

Susan Merrell

San Francisco, CA, United States

About Susan Merrell

When I was 11, I waited in the garage for the mailman to deliver pictures processed by Kodak that I had taken on my mother’s Instamatic. I usually missed the delivery, but on this particular day, I timed it right and I was there. I felt pure joy as the mailman pushed the bulky yellow and white envelope through the mail slot on the garage door and lucky to be there to grab the precious, yet unseen bundle of photos before it hit the ground. I don't recall what I photographed, but I remember the thrill of it.

I’m still shooting for the joy of capturing a moment. I strive for creating images that make you feel something, the whole point of photography according to a New York Times photo editor. I also hope to “find the holy in the mundane,” a tenet in Judaism that I’ve heard other photographers and artists quote. It sounds lofty, but it’s just being open to where spirit or creativity guides you, rather than pushing for a good shot or thinking it’s coming from you.

I shoot fine art, architecture, editorial, documentary and some commercial. The artwork part of my photography can be shooting non-journalism images like abstracts, landscapes, nudes, or creating something entirely new in post-production software, like the grand Photoshop program. I like to draw as well. I use inspiration and joy as a guide in deciding on a process, like I did without realizing it when I was 11.


A fourth-generation San Franciscan, Susan Merrell has worked as an editorial, documentary and fine art photographer in the Bay Area since 1989. Her projects range from art images and street documentary, to brand marketing photographs as principal photographer for the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), from 2007 to present. Merrell has received several photography awards, and her images have appeared in numerous local, national and international online and print publications, including: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, US News & World Report,, ABC Network, Bloomberg, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, METRO Newspapers, the journal Nature and California History magazine. Merrell is currently a photographer for UCSF, and continues her documentary and fine art projects.


1961 to present School of Hard Knocks and The Streets of San Francisco
2016 Ralph Gibson Workshop, Nudes
2016 Mark Edward Harris Workshop, Environmental Portrait
2013 DSLR Video Bootcamp, Bay Area Video Arts Coalition
2007 John Paul Caponigro workshop – The fine art print, Cushing, Maine
2005 Workshop, Documentary Photography, with Kim Komenich, Jim Merithew and Michelle Vignese, SF
2004 Workshop, The Documentary Photo Essay, with David Turnley, Santa Fe, NM

1988 Paralegal certification – University of Santa Clara, CA
1983 BA Political Science – San Jose State University, San Jose, CA
1982 Semester abroad program - Independent study Italian art history and modern dance at the University
of Siena, Italy, through the School for International Training, Brattleboro, Vermont


2018 San Francisco Women Artists — Gaia show – Water Falling, pigment print
2018 San Francisco Women Artists — Intrigue show – Pigeons at Warf I, and McAllister Pigeon – pigment prints
2018 San Francisco Women Artists — Point of View show – Pastel Abstract, canvas print
2017 UCSF Art for AIDS Auction -- Peace Lily, pigment print
2016 UCSF Art for AIDS Auction -- Pigeons at Warf I, SF, gelatin silver print
2015 UCSF Art for AIDS Auction -- Seagulls Taking Off, Rivera Street, SF; pigment print
2014 UCSF Art for AIDS Auction -- Nude I, pigment print
2012 UCSF Art for AIDS Auction -- Seagull on Fillmore Street, gelatin silver print
2011 UCSF Art for AIDS Auction -- Men hugging on underground train, gelatin silver print
2006 PhotoSF, Two documentary images selected for exhibition at the FotovisionSF display
2002 Art Auction, Coalition on Homelessness
2000 Seagull at Fillmore Street, Manhattan Arts International Magazine, New York
1998 San Francisco Jazz on Fillmore Festival, San Francisco
1997 Urban Birds, International World Wildlife Federation, Missoula, Montana
1995 Urban Birds and Other Women, Cathedral School Print Auction, San Francisco
1994 Silicon Valley Nudes and Architecture, San Jose Convention Center, San Jose
1993 Urban Birds, Santa Clara County Fair, San Jose
1990 Urban Birds and Architecture, Spiva Art Center National Tour, Joplin, Missouri
1990 Urban Birds, Eye Gallery, San Francisco
1988 Daily Life Images, Santa Clara County Fair, San Jose

2004 Urban Birds, Sub-level 1 Lobby, UCSF Laurel Heights Campus
2004 Local Musicians and Birds, Kokaburra Gifts, SF
2004 Urban Tao Images, Acabello Salon, SF   
2001-03 Jazz Pop Pictures, Rockin Java on Haight
2001 Urban Tao, Benefit—Haight Ashbury Free Clinic, People’s Café, Haight Street
2000 Urban Birds, UCSF Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, SF
1999 Urban Birds and Other Women, Vesuvio’s, SF
1999 Urban Birds and Other Women, Crepes On Cole, SF
1999 Jazz Pop Pictures, The Bluefront Café, SF
1997 Jazz Pop Pictures, Hollywood Billiards, SF
1996 Jazz Pop Pictures, California Grind, SF; Nudes and Architecture, Café Francisco, SF
1994 Landscape Images, Story Winery, Amador
1994 Jazz Masters, Club Jazz, San Jose
1993 Jazz Masters, Club Jazz, San Jose
1993 Urban Birds, Story Winery, Amador
1992 Jazz Masters, The Audible Difference, Menlo Park
1992 Charcoaled Nudes, Story Winery, Amador
1992 Political Satire Slide Show, F/X Club, San Jose
1992 The Homeless, F/X Club, San Jose
1991 Jazz Pop Pictures, (opening) Gordon Biersch, San Jose
1991 Rock Shots, F/X Club, San Jose
1991 Jazz Masters, Club Jazz, San Jose
1991 Architectural Documentation, EVAX Technologies, Scotts Valley
1990 Jazz Masters, City Espresso, Saratoga
1990 Jazz Masters, Double Rainbow, Los Gatos
1989 Rock Kodaliths, Club Oasis, San Jose
1989 Photographs, Private Residence, SF


2021 Silicon Valley Open Studios
2014 Bird Images, Big Crow Art & Photography Gallery, SF
2012 UCSF Faculty and staff art show
2006-08 Art and Soul Gallery – Nudes
2005 Urban bird image, The Sogan Foundation auction for the Capital City Tibetan High School
2004-05 Urban Birds, Sub Level One Lobby Gallery, UCSF, Laurel Heights, SF
2004 Local Musicians and Birds, Kookaburra Gifts, SF
2003 Nudes, Art Sale to Benefit Coalition on Homelessness, Build Gallery, SF
2003 Nudes, Jazz and Birds, Coalition on Homelessness Art Auction, SF
2001 Urban Tao, Benefit for families of Sep. 11th, Kennedy’s Pub, North Beach, SF
1999 Jazz Pop Pictures, Click 3, San Francisco; Nudes, Architecture and Jazz, The Grind, SF
1998 Nudes and Architecture, The Cookie Shop, San Francisco
1996-97 Jazz Pop Pictures, Hollywood Billiards, San Francisco
1995 Jazz Pop Pictures, South First Street Billiards, San Jose
1995 Operation Rescue, editorial images, Mexican American Center For Latino Arts, San Jose
1995 Silicon Valley Nudes, Kensington Art Center, Campbell
1994 Jazz Pop Pictures, Bay City Roasting Co., Mountain View
1994 Jazz Pop Pictures, Street Lights Records, San Jose
1993 Urban Birds, Amador Arts Festival, Amador
1993 Bay Area Homeless, Emergency Housing Consortium, San Jose
1993 Homeless Women, Club Oasis, San Jose
1992 Homeless Women, Pizza Pictures Gallery, Willow Glen
1992 Architectural Nudes, Lotus Gallery, Berkeley
1991 Jazz Pop Pictures, Art Attack Gallery, San Francisco
1991 San Jose Jazz Festival, San Jose

2019 Revenant, book of poems by Clare McCotter, (Salmon Poetry), County Clare, Ireland
2017 Visiting Artist Residency, The American Academy In Rome, Italy
2011 Portrait of Henry Bourne and archival image restoration and editing: “Paths to innovation: Discovering recombinant DNA, oncogenes, and prions in one medical school, (U of California Press)
2010 The Red Hot Chili Peppers: An Oral and Visual History, (Harper Collins); full page concert photo of Anthony Keidis
2006 Top-Ten national placement – Pieta II, editorial image, National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions’ (NACHRI) photo competition and national exhibit
1999 Visiting Artist Residency, The American Academy In Rome, Italy
1995 Finalist, Silicon Valley Nude – Photographer’s Forum Magazine, Santa Barbara
1993 Finalist, Nude and Architecture – San Jose Convention Center, San Jose
1993 Certificate of Appreciation – Organized multi-media event for The Emergency Housing Consortium (EHC), San Jose
1993 Certificate of Appreciation – Organized Armories Drive for the EHC, San Jose
1992 Honorable Mention, Pigeons at Warf 1 – The Bay Guardian, SF
1991 Grand Prize, Pigeons at Warf 1 – Peninsula Magazine, Redwood City
1990 First Prize, Bass for Miles Davis – Paul Masson Magazine, Saratoga
1989 Honorable Mention, Three Boys editorial image, The Flag – Good Earth Restaurants
1989 Jury selection, Three Boys - Santa Clara County Fair

2006 UCSF Today, Story on National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI) print award for Pieta II
2003 Nudes and Birds series, Subject of term paper for art student Vicki Boxall, at University of Redding, England
2002 San Francisco Examiner, Mention of photography donation
2001 UCSF Newsbreak, Artist profile and exhibition announcement, “Urban Tao” editorial and art solo exhibition at People’s Café
1999 SF Bay Times, Review of Reverse Pieta nude in South of Market Artists Association Group Show, September
1999 The San Francisco Observer, Review of "Urban Birds and Other Women," solo exhibition, by Laura Lengyel, April
1998 The San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Photographer, Feature story on the front page of the Sunday section, on Urban Birds series and artist profile, by Leah Garchik