Melissa Cormican

Editorial Vibrant Encounters:
Melissa Cormican’s Colorful Animal Portraits

© Melissa Cormican

“I am drawn to their beauty, multitude of forms, and the connection I feel when their gaze is towards me.” – Melissa Cormican

─── by Josh Bright, May 9, 2023
  • Melissa Cormican is an American photographer whose colorful animal portraits reveal the beauty and complexity of the natural world.

    Color animal portrait photo of a mandrill by Melissa Cormican

    A previous 3rd prize winner and finalist in our monthly awards, Cormican began her photographic journey in 2014, inspired by a visit to a Bruce Davidson exhibition at the Huntingdton Library in her native California.

    Her fascination with the art form deepened after watching the acclaimed documentary ‘Finding Vivian Maier’, which prompted her to purchase a Nikon d3300 and embark on a photographic adventure.

    Color animal portrait photo of a king vulture by Melissa Cormican
    King Vulture
    Color animal portrait photo of a Sumatran Tiger by Melissa Cormican
    Sumatran Tiger
    Color animal portrait photo of a Flamingo by Melissa Cormican

    Initially, Cormican photographed animals as a way of learning the ins and outs of her camera. However, she soon discovered a profound connection with them, which kept her returning to capture them, time and time again.

    One of her major strengths is her understanding of light which allows her to emphasize texture and tone in her work, and thus capture both the unique colors of her subjects and the tactile qualities of their feathers and fur, often accentuated through close-ups. It is an approach that engenders a sculptural quality evoking the work of
    Ruth Bernhard and Edward Weston, though is also reminiscent of their contemporary Ansel Adams, whom she references as a key inspiration. Like Adams, Cormican is drawn to the intricate patterns and textures found in nature, which she translates beautifully into her work.

    Color animal portrait photo of a Capuchin by Melissa Cormican

    While it may be a cliché, in portrait photography, there is no denying the importance of making the subject feel comfortable in order to capture their true personality. This is a philosophy that Cormican wholeheartedly embraces in her own practice. Her approach is natural and unobtrusive, patient, composed, and respectful, affording the animals the space to be themselves, resulting in photographs that capture their unique character and spirit.

    Color animal portrait photo of a Toucan by Melissa Cormican

    I only observe the animals in their environment, wherever they may be. I find that they always look toward you. You don’t need to make noise or intrude on their peace at all. Moments reveal themselves.”

    Color animal portrait photo of a Parrot by Melissa Cormican
    Color animal portrait photo of a Flamingo by Melissa Cormican
    Color animal portrait photo of a Mandrill by Melissa Cormican

    She fully immerses herself in the photographic process, drawing inspiration from music to create a meditative ambiance. With her headphones on, she carefully searches for the perfect combination of conditions, or in her own words, “interesting moments where light and shadow collide”, to capture her captivating, color-rich images. The music serves as a soundtrack, heightening her focus and creativity, as she strives to produce exceptional photographs.

    color close up photo of a spoonbill bird by Melissa Cormican. From the article, Vibrant Encounters: Melissa Cormican's colorful animal portraits
    Roseate Spoonbill

    Though photographing animals is not something new, Cormican goes beyond the ordinary, resulting in images that are not only unique but also deeply meaningful.

    Through her masterful apperception of light, tone, and form, she imbues her work with a profound appreciation for the incredible creatures she captures. Rather than treating them as mere objects, she recognizes that, like us, they possess personalities and emotions, capturing their essence with remarkable clarity.

    Her images are a testament to her unwavering respect and attention to detail, showing that animals deserve the same level of consideration as human subjects.


    All images © Melissa Cormican