The son of a serious amateur photographer father, Merle was raised in a house full of cameras. His father photographed wars and weddings, and some of Merle's first memories are of images floating in trays of chemicals and of the dim red glow of a safelight. But it was the Christmas gift of his own Nikon camera and a subsequent summer backpacking in Europe that changed his view of the world forever.

Merle went on to study English and German literature, complete his degree, and work at a variety of jobs, from translating German military magazines to an interminable period in information technology, before pursuing photography and writing seriously. An Ohio native, he has lived in New York City and Chicago, and has continued to travel extensively, first in Europe, but more recently in Africa, Latin America, and the American West.

Merle is fluent in German and conversant in French and Spanish.

As an emerging photographer, Merle has attempted to record more than clichéd Mediterranean harbors or memorable restaurants, and is driven more often to seek the forgotten, or even forbidden places, places that are increasingly threatened by popular culture, technology, and consumerism.