Q & A with SVP Partner Lisa Merrill
What are you currently working on, and how do you personally decide which projects to work on?
My days are filled with a mix of photo projects in various stages, volunteer work for SVP and KidsQuest Children’s Museum, and parenting. Deciding which new projects to take on is a constant challenge, as my interests and passions always outweigh my available time. I've learned to trust my intuition, as I've found it's often the unplanned paths that are the most rewarding. An example of this is SVP's Family Service Group, which I co-founded with Carol Ryan after we met for coffee in '97 and discovered our shared interest in volunteering with our kids.
My husband John and I share passions for travel and photography, and founded Merrill Images in 1994. Three photo agencies license our images to clients around the world for use in guidebooks, textbooks, travel catalogs, websites, and other communications. We decide what to photograph based on personal interest in a country or subject. We're especially drawn to vibrant cultures, festivals, and handicrafts, as well as children and outdoor recreation. Personal photo projects include organic farming (for me) and renewable energy (for John). Our photography continues to evolve over time, as we're always learning and pushing ourselves creatively.
I provide photography to Open Window School and KidsQuest Children's Museum, and occasionally take on new pro-bono work in response to a request from an SVP investee. I recently expanded Merrill Images to include work for local companies and non-profits, as well as family portraits. With this diverse mix of projects, I always have a backlog of images to edit and process. I just finished Mexico’s Day of the Dead, and will soon start work on images from a road trip through the Southwest U.S. And of course there’s research for future travel. I’m looking forward to exploring SE Asia in January on a group photo tour with fellow SVP partner Lisa Bontje.
Why did you join the SVP Board?
Over the past 13 years, SVP has become an important part of my life. It's helped me contribute effectively to non-profits as a photographer and board member, become a more engaged philanthropist, and be a better advocate for quality education in our state. It's also been the source of many wonderful friendships. As a Board member I intend to do all I can to strengthen SVP and maximize our impact on Partners, Investees, and our community. I'm particularly interested in expanding our partnership, as new partners bring new skills, perspectives and resources. I'll continue working with fellow Outreach Committee members to reach out to new constituencies, and to empower all partners to be active SVP ambassadors. Another area I'd like to work on is building connections between partners through new types of events and groups within SVP.
What has been your most interesting experience thus far at SVP?
I’ve often used my photography skills to help SVP Investees communicate their stories with greater impact. I feel fortunate to have had first-hand experience with some of the non-profits with which we partner. One that stands out is Kindering. Photographing its highly skilled and patient therapists helping children with special needs touched me deeply. My connection to Kindering grew as I witnessed and learned more about the diverse range of services it provides for its young clients, and for their parents and siblings. I photographed at Kindering each March over the course of 5 years, and continue to contribute to its annual fund. It’s been both a professional challenge and a personal privilege to photograph the intensely human work of Kindering. And now I have the pleasure of working with its impressive Executive Director Mimi Siegel in a new way, as fellow SVP Board members.
If SVP could solve one problem in King Country, what should it be?
Eliminating poverty is the first thing that comes to mind, as it’s at the root of most societal problems, but that seems too daunting. However, I believe investing in and transforming our early learning system is one of the best ways we can combat poverty and improve lives, and I'm proud of SVP's efforts in this area. I can envision a future in which every child in King County has high quality early learning experiences, and enters kindergarten with the skills they need to succeed in school and in life.
Favorite Seattle hangout?
It's too difficult to pick just one! I enjoy hiking the trails of Cougar Mountain, kayaking on Lake Union and near the Arboretum, and cycling around Mercer Island. To expand my horizons and do fun photography, I often go to Seattle's fascinating festivals. Annual favorites include the Seafair Powwow at Discover Park, Fremont Summer Solstice, Bon Odori, and the International District’s Lunar New Year festival.
How should other like-minded Partners/people get in touch with you?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.