Senior Madeline Melragon discusses her personal and artistic development through photography

By Journalism I student Meghan Beery, ‘21

It doesn’t have to be a photoshoot to take a photo.

In front of a fridge littered with photobooth strips, calendars and cards, senior Madeline Melragon lifts her camera to her face. It’s not a photographer’s typical studio setting. There are no reflectors to perfect the lighting, no tripod to balance the camera—just a group of friends in a yellow kitchen, gathered around senior Greta Schrieber. They crowd around her and hold their breath as the needle enters her ear. Melragon pushes the shutter.

Throughout high school, Melragon has used her talent in photography to capture spontaneous moments in life and express the emotions associated with each. She commonly snaps pictures of her friends, whether they are leaning out the window of a car, perching on rocks or peeking out from behind greenery. Last year, she won the photo contest after years of hard work.

Although her style has changed over the years, photography has been a constant love in Melragon’s life since middle school.

Image courtesy Madeline Melragon

“It doesn’t matter the medium, it doesn’t matter what step I’m in—whether it’s planning, or shooting or editing in photoshop or developing my film—I just love it,” she said. One of the reasons she enjoys photography is the effort it takes to be successful. 

“It won’t turn out well if you don’t put all that you’ve got into it,” she said. “It’s something that takes a lot of time and care and creativity.”

While Melragon’s love for photography hasn’t changed much through the years, her approach to taking photos has.

“My freshman and sophomore year I focused on very planned shoots [that were] very posed,” she said. 

Photoshoots were scheduled in advance and were predictable in what the pictures would look like. Every detail had been chosen and marked, with little room for spontaneity. Now she focuses on more candid and unpredictable moments, a large shift from her initial style.

As her photography style has been developing, so has Melragon’s mentality. During her first two years of high school, she struggled with anxiety and depression related obstacles. 

“I had a lot of trouble getting through my first two years of high school,” Melragon said. “I think I’d probably still be stuck in that same difficulty if I’d let that consume me.” She did not let those obstacles slow her down or stop her from doing what she loved.

“Don’t try to move past it if you’re not ready, but as soon as you can, try and pull yourself up out of it because it doesn’t do you any good to just keep living through it,” she said. 

During her junior year, Melragon’s hard work and perseverance paid off. Her photo of senior Emma Bhatt standing outside in the rain won the school’s annual photo contest and currently hangs near the attendance office.

“That whole photoshoot was so much fun, because I just took pictures of my best friends during pouring down rain. They hated me after. But it was so fun,” Melragon said. Winning the contest had been a dream of hers since middle school, and she became overjoyed that it finally came true.

Currently, Melragon focuses on the lessons she has learned from both photography and experiences. She’s learned to slow down and be attentive to detail, as well as live in the moment. 

“If you do a rush job, then you can tell,” she said with a smile. “If you’re not thorough, especially when you’re developing film or in the darkroom, it’s really easy to mess it up.” 

The same lesson can apply to life. Additionally, in contrast to her earlier pictures, Melragon has started capturing the more spontaneous moments in her daily life instead of planning every shoot. 

“I want to portray what my life is like and all of the emotions that come with it. I just find it so interesting. Even if it’s something I’ve never experienced,” she said. “Since it’s people experiencing real emotions, it’s easy to connect to it.”

Whether it’s a photograph of her friends texting, swinging or standing in the pouring rain, Melragon focuses on capturing the emotion and the moment with her camera.

The flash goes off. Melragon lowers the camera and looks at the picture that was just taken. Memorialized in it are the bracelets on her friend’s hand, the expression of Schreiber and a newly pierced ear. The moment and its emotions are now physical, something that someone can hold, admire, and relate to. Sometimes the greatest moments in life aren’t planned, and all it takes to capture them is the click of a button.