I am John Merrell, a Los Angeles, CA / Southern California based photographer who specializes in Indian Classical Dance / Arangetram / Rangapravesh photography.

Often, I get asked about how I came into photographing Indian Classical Dancers. To answer that question, I was introduced to Indian Classical dance - specifically Odissi - in the late 90's through a Pacific Northwest dance teacher - Dr. Ratna Roy. Dr. Roy was also my professor and through a South Asian Studies course I learned the basics of Odissi.

During this time, Dr. Roy introduced me to a group of musicians and dancers from Orissa who were touring the USA - the late Padmashree Guruji Gangadhar Pradhan and Smt Guruji Aruna Mohanty from the Odissi Dance Academy (ODA). After meeting Ganga sir I was interested in learning Odissi Pakuaj (Mardal). I travelled to Bhubaneswar, Orissa the following year and learned from the great master musician Guruji Dhaneswar Swain and survived a category 5 cyclone.

When I moved to Los Angeles I picked up photography. Around this time, artists I knew from the Odissi Dance Academy were touring the US and I met Guru Nandita Behera, who runs Odissi Dance Circle in Artesia. This was my first introduction to the Indian Classical Arts scene in Southern California.

What's In My Bag?

I shoot with Canon cameras and mostly Canon lenses. Some of the gear I use:


  • Canon 5D Mark IV (Event)
  • Canon 5D S (Studio Sessions)


  • Canon 24-70 f2.8 Mark II
  • Canon 70-200 f2.8 Mark II
  • Canon 35 f1.4 Mark I
  • Canon 135 f2
  • Canon 16-35 f4
  • Sigma 15 f1.8 Fisheye


  • Canon 600 EX II RT Speedlight
  • Canon 600 EX I RT Speedlight
  • Canon ST E3
  • Profoto B10 250w
  • Profoto D2 500w
  • Profoto B1 500w
  • Elinchrom Rotolux 69" Octa
  • Elinchrom Rotolux 39" Deep Octa
  • Profoto 3x1 Stripbox


  • Bags - I use Thinktank - my favorite for events is the Airport Commuter but I also pack a Streetwalker.
  • Straps - Blackrapid - most comfortable is the Double Breath.