adam marelli by steve richards


After completing a degree in sculpture and photography at NYU, Adam Marelli (b. 1980) spent ten years apprenticing with a master builder working on high-end residential projects in Manhattan.  During his time in construction, he built homes primarily for art collectors and artists and was a contributor to the New York Times as a renovation consultant. 

Concurrently, he studied under a Zen monk for seven years. In exchange for his education he taught the younger students how to maintain the monastery. This afforded him an unparalleled understanding of both the “way in which things are made” and “how beliefs are put into practice.”

His work combines a background in construction with the study of ancient building techniques.  It looks at the influences of shamanic practices on temple architecture and how temples were designed as “buildings for visions.”  The most recent body of work explores our paradoxical relationship with the architecture of the ocean.  One part fascination, one part fear, the ocean is a polarizing landscape where the rules of geometry and human senses are challenged.  



Tanna, Vanuatu

Combining cultural photography and exploration, Marelli is given exclusive access to communities that typically refuse photographers.  He was one of the first photographers invited by the chiefs of the Naihne tribe, on the remote island of Tanna (Vanuatu,) to document their building and spiritual practices.


Kyoto, Maizuru, Okayama, Toyama, & Uji

After Vanuatu, his work attracted the attention of the Japanese government.  They supported his three year project "Lost Ceremony" that looks at Japanese Master Craftsmen as an endangered species.  He worked inside of their workshops, some dating back 16 generations.  Much of his access to the craftsmen was granted based on his experience as a builder and training with Zen monks. 


Matera, Italy (European Cultural Capital 2019)

And he is currently shooting two projects based in Italy.  The first project opens the doors of one of the last gondola makers of Venice.  This tightly knit community has an aversion to outsiders.  Marelli learned Italian so that he could earn the trust and support of the boat makers as he worked inside of their world. 

The second project looks at the city of Matera, which was recently awarded European Cultural Capital for 2019.  Going back to his family roots in the region, Marelli based the project off of Italo Calvino's famous book Le Città Invisibile (Invisible Cities.)


His expertise in cultural practices, from architecture to master craftsmanship, is regularly sought after. Major media outlets like the New York Times and conferences, like SXSW, feature his views on the “Creative Process” both as a writer and a speaker. 


In 2013, Marelli was awarded membership to the Explorer’s Club as a Cultural Photographer. The club rewards members whose pioneering efforts re-define the global landscape, underpinned through their respective expertise. Marelli’s contributions have been deemed worthy of the club’s mission which is to "...leave humankind a legacy of discovery and achievement for the 21st century."


  • Leica Camera
  • Chapman Bags (London, UK)
  • JNTO ( Japanese National Tourism Organization )
  • The City of Matera: European Cultural Capital 2019
  • George Nakashima Woodworkers
  • Vanuatu Pacifica Foundation
  • Slow Tools ( Osaka, Japan )