September 23, 2014

CORNELL CLOSE-UPS | Danielle Mericle Discusses Work at Cornell Digital Media Group, Personal Passions

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Corrections appended

Whether she is exploring the University’s archives for digitization projects or photographing the forest in the middle of the night, Danielle Mericle, a production coordinator for the digital media group at Cornell, said she is always inspired by the world around her.

Mericle, who has a background that blends both photography and library work, works to preserve rare and fragile media. This involves interviewing professors to find out how much Cornell media — including photographs, text and cassette recordings of famous visitors — is unique and fragile.

“It’s a pretty wide variety,” she said. “That’s what makes it interesting, right?”

Mericle said one of her favorite parts of her job is forming relationships with professors and continuing to work with them and collaborate with them over the years.

“Its really kind if fantastic to see how their research evolves and how the library can partner with them to make it accessible broadly to the world,” she said. “It’s a really interesting process.”

Danielle Mericle (Michelle Feldman / Sun Senior Editor)

Danielle Mericle (Michelle Feldman / Sun Senior Editor)

Danielle Mericle (Michelle Feldman / Sun Senior Editor)

Danielle Mericle (Michelle Feldman / Sun Senior Editor)

The Library of Congress has stated that only five to 10 years remain before media such as VHS and cassette tapes are no longer accessible due to degradation or loss of technology.

Mericle, who has done a number of photo book projects — one focusing on an archive site in Peru, another on a herd of white deer in an upstate army depot — said she is a strong believer that photo lends itself well to the printed page. In 2006, Mericle and her husband founded their own small publishing company called A-Jump Books, which distributes across the United States and Europe.

Other subjects of the company’s photo books include decaying manuscripts she has digitized as well as those from an archaeological site and an indigenous agrarian worker’s strike. According to Mericle, though it might not be obvious, the pieces serve as “a meditation on lessons learned and lost.”

A-Jump’s most recent book was published with the interim art department chair Michael Ashkin, who Mericle says she has admired for a long time. This weekend, Mericle and her husband will attend a book fair at MoMA’s PS1 — a contemporary arts museum in Queens, New York City — for the official release.

“There is a lot of great work being done out there,” Mericle said. “Its a fun community.”

Mericle said she first became interested in photography when she went to an Edward Weston exhibit in Tucson, Arizona, as a child. Though her parents were not artists, they always had cameras around, and it was not long before her and her sister picked them up and began taking photos together. According to Mericle, photography now keeps her sane.

“[Cultural theorist] Susan Sontag  argued that the camera separates you from the world, and I really disagree on a personal level,” she said. “It’s what connects me, what keeps me engaged, what keeps me looking. Because its so easy to stop looking.”

Mericle advises burgeoning photographers to not “take it too seriously.”

“Keep close to what’s important to you,” she said. “It’s really easy to get enveloped with the idea of the art world or what you want to do with that, that whole thing, but I think at the end of the day you should love what you do and keep close to that.”

Mericle says she has no doubt that her son, Charley — whose pictures are hung around her desk — will end up being an artist, too. Though he just entered kindergarten, Mericle says she is in awe of his already-vivid imagination.

Between Charley and her job at Cornell, Mericle said it is hard to keep up with her own photo projects and the publishing company. She says that the in-print company will be the first thing to go, but as she talks about Ashkin’s book release and traveling across the world to check out distributors, it might be hard to believe it will “go” anytime soon.

“I think I’m doing what I want to be doing now,” she said.

Corrections: A previous version of this story incorrectly printed a photographer’s name as “Ed Westin,” when in fact his name is “Edward Weston.” In addition, the story said Mericle attended the New York Art Book Fair last weekend, when in fact the event will be held this weekend. The piece also incorrectly stated that Mericle is currently preparing an exhibition of A.D. White casts. In fact, the exhibition was completed in 2012.

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