Taking Her Best Shot: Mady Mertens Gets the Picture at North Atlanta 

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Trinitii Baggett

Big Shot: Senior Mady Mertens has chronicled the life of North Atlanta High School in the course of her successful high school journey. Mertens will be attending the University of Georgia in the fall where she will major in sports marketing.

For the past four years, the art of photojournalism at North Atlanta has notably been showcased by senior Mady Mertens. Her passion for photography has shined a light on Warriors and their best moments at various sports, and extracurricular events that have marked the varied and diverse life at our school. 

Her skills have improved due to her patience and creativity allowing Dubs to view the world through her lens. She has become the go-to photographer at school and colleges earning her national recognition for her talent.

The origin of her interest in photography started in the first grade when her mother’s brother, her Uncle Will, gave her a small Canon camera for Christmas. Because he was an accomplished photographer, he had both the enthusiasm for the craft and also the ability to give her 7-year-old self some shooting tips. With this knowledge she began taking pictures of everything in sight. In growing up, she returned to her camera sporadically but really was more focused on sports and cheerleading as she was approaching high school. 

A seeming setback while in high school is what directed her back to the craft her uncle first directed her toward. She has tried out for the football cheer team as she started her freshman year and did not make the squad. As one door closed and the photography door opened. Although she was sad about the missed opportunity where cheerleading was concerned, that development prompted her to began taking pictures on the football field instead. The positive outcome connected her with Jack Stenger, the publications adviser for both The Warrior Wire and Invictus. He mentioned to her there was always a great need for high quality photography for both publications and Mertens quickly realized a new and exciting opportunity. “I got involved at school and helped Mr. Stenger with the photography assignments he gave me,” said Mertens. “So not making the football cheer team was actually the best thing that could have happened to me.”

When you search her name on the Wire’s website you’ll see her photo credit on various stories. And over the course of her years in high school, her work on invictus has given students a first-hand look into a visually appealing yearbook they’ll treasure forever. Being a self-taught photographer meant that watching helpful videos was the recipe for success of using a camera. With the support of her parents who motivate her to do her best. There’s no limit to her dream of becoming a sports marketing manager for a professional sports team one day. “My family has always supported me. Before I got my license my mom would always drive me to whatever game there was going on,” she said. 

In addition to her support at home, Mertens also received significant professional advice from Dave Quick, a one-time North Atlanta parent who has generously donated his professional-level photography in covering many North Atlanta events. Quick, who calls himself a “life-long photo geek,” taught her about the operations of cameras along with many advanced shooting techniques. Anytime a question comes to mind her professional mentor answers them without hesitation. They text often about how to better her skills and improve her outlook on her community. “Mr. Quick is my biggest supporter because he seems to know it all,” she said. “He’s like a photography Google search but much better. He’s made me a better photographer for sure.”

Mertens said she was overjoyed when she got word in May that she will be attending the University of Georgia, where she will be studying at the same school as her older brother, Anton, North Atlanta Class of 2020. In Athens, Mertens said she plans on pursuing a degree in sports marketing. 

With all the practice she’s gained over time her confidence has grown tremendously since her freshman year. Mertens has challenged herself by welcoming opportunities outside of school that will positively impact her future. With all her hard work she is highly considered to be North Atlanta’s top photojournalist. The most comfortable she has been is with a camera in hand and that’s the reason why she chose this career path.  “Photography is my life. It means so much to me. Without photography, I would not be who I am today”, she said.

During the summer at a football camp she was hired by a Sports Illustrated reporter to photograph several games last football season. Soon after that her photos were featured in Sports Illustrated across several online stories. The number one football recruit Travis Hunter’s photos taken by Mertens were featured on top news headlines. When he switched from Florida State to Jackson State coached by Deon Sanders. She was overwhelmed with happiness knowing her work was displayed for the world. “It was the most exciting day of my life. A dream come true!” she said. 

Last year her devotion to taking pictures at football games opened the door to more opportunities. The greatest experience she’s had thus far is stepping foot on Dooley Field in Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia. While taking in this surreal moment she photographed the pre-game during the football game Georgia vs Charleston Southern. Walking on the field made her happy as she stood on the sidelines photographing the football players. 

By far this opportunity had the most impact on her, especially being among thousands of fans in the stands “I was living my dream –  photographing THE Georgia Bulldogs,” she said. “Photography has allowed me to attend many sporting events. I have met a lot of people and made lots of friends because of photography.”

There is still so much to unveil about her interest in photography and what we’ll see from her next. Since her humble beginnings as a photographer she knows this is just the tip of the iceberg. Now that she is older, her advice to anyone coming up in their high school journey would be to keep learning and to trust the process. If someone pushes – as Mertens has done – it will all work out in the end. 

Many of us have seen high school through our experiences and classes. But Picture This: For North Atlanta senior Mady Mertens, high school has been seen through the carefully pointed lens of a camera. And in that endeavor, she’s certainly given it her best shot.