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Meet Marlena Miller of Honor Her Project

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marlena Miller.

Marlena, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Growing up on the border in the West Texas town of El Paso, the beautifully diverse people and landscape inspired me to become an artist. At a young age I ultimately gravitated toward making images with a vintage camera and b&w film. I began my education in art at California College of the Arts in Oakland, where I was fortunate and eternally grateful to have been mentored by compelling, iconic artists who were masters of their craft as well as their message of creating candid and visceral work. After receiving my BFA in photography I relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a photography career in Los Angeles and over the a decade I honed my practice in commercial product photography but lost my passion for making art. In 2015, I was faced with a life-changing cancer diagnosis and I knew that it was opportunity to re-evaluate my life and refocus my creative energy towards the healing power of art.

In a time when people are searching for creative outlets, I feel compelled to create a space for them to find healing through art. Coinciding with the initial pulse of Honor Her Project in the fall 2019, I began mentoring young female photographers at Los Fotos Project. I am inspired by the creativity they find within themselves and the honesty of the images the girls capture. Over this last year, and especially in light of this societal reset, I continue to explore methods and learning tools to help me become the best support for people interested in healing through art.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Yes, of course I’ve had difficulties along my road as most of us have. I navigated young life with a hurt and broken family. My older brother and I were raised by a single, hard-working mother, whose strength is a deep part of who I am. In my heart I know that strength passed down from her gave me the strength to navigate through the toughest times in my adult life; breast cancer, divorce, unemployment and the uncertainty of our current reality. For many years ignored my intuition, and I made decisions to fit into someone else’s idea of how my life should look, and as a result I lost a little more of myself until there was only a memory of the funny vibrant artist I was. Before my diagnosis, I had a deep feeling of emptiness and I started to pray for some change to bring me back home to myself. All of those seemingly insurmountable challenges (down to the tiny daily tasks) were the clues to guide me there. And in a round-a-bout way, my prayers were answered, and I had no choice but to listen. I finally realized that negating my true self was the real obstacle. I understand the struggle is as real as the healing power of love is.

Honor Her Project – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Honor Her Project is an evolving of creative self exploration. I understand that creativity takes courage, and my goal is to offer support as connections between creative spirit and gifts given are cultivated. The project’s purpose is to guide people to fully let go of fear can feel safe to express themselves wholeheartedly. I found inspiration for the Project in a self-portrait I took few days before bilateral mastectomy surgery in 2015. In that image I captured the shadow I was living in. Looking at that photo, I was reminded the power of the image and it’s ‘1000 word’ ability to invoke such emotion and project me back to that dark moment. I searched for a balance between the grief that I carried and yearning for a love filled life and found it through quiet meditation. That space that allowed me to find the guiding voice to my creativity. I felt heart guide me to make photos with movement, beautiful fabric and flowers to heal the scar left from the pain cancer. My mission is to help embrace the feelings darkness through expression of light.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
It’s not one single event in my career but rather a culmination of periods of personal growth that I look to, with poignant gratitude. I took a very scary leap away from a life that I knew wasn’t as good as it could be, to create a life filled with love and positivity. I’m confident, that what I’ve learned about life, photography and art, I strive to support others in their own sublime creative journey.

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Image Credit:
Ryan Ward

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