Bailee Merrill – “Solitude” coffee table photo book

Bailee Merrill | Communications, Journalism | March 2022


As a journalist, my overarching goal is to share meaningful stories. For my senior project, I had originally planned on documenting the experiences of extreme winter athletes, but quickly realized I wouldn’t have enough time to execute it the way I wanted to. 

So one day I was sitting in the McKay Library, brainstorming a new topic I could cover; in front of me, I saw a young couple being way too snuggly in a public place, and then the question crossed my mind: For the people that never or rarely experience that kind of connection… how do they feel?

And I knew I wanted to interview people about loneliness.

Hardcover design | Bailee Merrill

I started to think about different situations people might be in that would be valuable to cover. I found seven people to interview—here are three of their synopses:

Alex is a dog store owner from Russia and Ukraine who has been married and divorced twice. Being mostly alone is an everyday difficulty for him.

Kathy married Gordon when she was 15 years old, and she lost him to pancreatic cancer just a few years ago. She’s had to learn how to live independently, after the majority of her life was spent with Gordon.

Erin was diagnosed with dysautonomia in high school, and the effects it has had on her physical, emotional and mental health have caused her to become too familiar with social isolation.

After compiling the transcriptions from the interviews, editing the photos I took, writing the rough drafts and second drafts and third drafts, I used Blurb to format and design the book. I went for a simple, clean look where the photos and quotes from interviewees would be the main focus.

Paperback design | Bailee Merrill

Each conversation opened my eyes to this complex concept of “loneliness.” There are times when being alone is healthy, rejuvenating; but there are also times when it’s detrimental.

Each story was beautifully individual, and I was so grateful for these people that allowed me to step into a vulnerable part of their lives for a few moments. It strengthened my passion for journalism; it allowed me to talk to people about a topic no one asks them about, and it allowed them to tell their stories in a safe environment. I only hope with the text I wrote and the photos I took that I did their stories justice, and that each reader feels a little less alone, knowing that feeling and overcoming loneliness is a part of the human experience.

After planning, interviewing, organizing, editing, photographing and designing, this project was completed in 92 hours.