We caught up with one of the most iconic photog’s in the game Mike Miller. Who has taken his lens around the world since the dawn of LA’s O.G.’s to the present day mainstream. Cube, Snoop or Pac you name it… chances are Mike has shot it.
Andeaux: You went to Santa Monica High, around legends from Dogtown to Sean Penn how did that inspire you translate your work behind the lens from skateboarding to pop culture?
Mike Miller: At the time my life revolved surfing, skateboarding and I surfed and skated with those guys. Actually my cousin had Alva’s plexi half pipe in his backyard, so all the big skaters were over there at that time so those were my celebrities. When I was young we would listen 1580 KDAY and they played all funk and hip hop, plus Saturday Night Jams and Greg “Mack Attack” Mack, influenced me quite a bit in the Hip Hop area.At the time my life revolved surfing, skateboarding and I surfed and skated with those guys. Actually my cousin had Alva’s plexi half pipe in his backyard, so all the big skaters were over there at that time so those were my celebrities. When I was young we would listen 1580 KDAY and they played all funk and hip hop, plus Saturday Night Jams and Greg “Mack Attack” Mack, influenced me quite a bit in the Hip Hop area.
Did growing up around skateboarding. surfing, punk rock and hip-hop icons illustrate your photography in the most core way?
It is a reflection of street, Punk rock, surf, skate or the anti-establishment attitude. When I moved to Europe to shoot it taught me about style and fashion in photography. When I started doing Hip Hop covers my Dad had a demolition company in East Los Angeles, so I grew up around there, driving a mack truck believe it or not at 15 years old. I knew that lifestyle even though I grew up by the beach, being a surfer and a skater. So I went downtown or to south central and just winged it. My upbringing influence a grittier documentary style to my photos. Even though I prep before every shoot with locations, props etc… and have a solid game plan.
N.W.A.’s first album set precedence, how was skating and kicking back with Eazy outside Ruthless Records parking lot?
I was shooting for The Source magazine, and I always brought my skateboard around the country, and was skating around the parking lot waiting for him. Then he pulled up, and popped his trunk pulled out a Natas Kaupas deck who was an old friend of mine. I didn’t realize it was a really strong image until 20 years later. It really shows the L.A. lifestyle from the Carhartt jacket, the Cortez sneak’s, the .22, the Natas skateboard and the Dodger cap.
Shooting with Pac brought praise and attention how was it capturing him in his natural element?
1 out of 10 people wouldn’t like Pac. So there would be a little mayhem when we were shooting, and had to leave locations. Plus M.C. Hammer brought that kind of attention when we were shooting. So things would get hairy luckily no one got hurt.
What’s the heaviest moment you spent doing a shoot?
Recently in Compton, I was in a drive by shooting with an artist last year. Everyone dropped to the pavement. Luckly nobody was hurt
From cruising to [A$AP] Rocky’s house, or snapping pics of Cube how is to shoot older and new icons in fresh ways?
Work is work, I’m young at heart. I have a formula to create a strong image. Whether it is a fashion model or a Hip Hop artist I approach it the same way. Angelina Jolie or a skater at Venice skatepark. I work hard to create something unique and different.
What do you think of social media and everyone having a camera in their back pocket?
Now it is very accessible to compose a situation with an Iphone, you can capture lifestyle which I love the spontaneity of it.
Was there more magic in the pre digital age of photography?
It was more difficult and technical. When I did a shoot I had 7-15 set ups and you didn’t have the ability to look at the back of a digital camera. That was apart of my technique that I learned when I came back from Europe to the states I was the first person to bring back cross process C41/E6 film . I always tried to be at the forefront of chemistry and film.
I’m working on book with The Smithsonian. Last week I shot a skate campaign coming in Nov. Shoot in Paris coming up and another in Hawaii 2018 for a catalogue. So I constantly staying busy, and I’ve stayed consistent for the last 30 years.
You have helped forge the path for many photographers out there, what’s your advice for the next generation?
Being a jack of all trades is critical.