friday feature: johnny miller

Have you picked up any issues of Martha Stewart magazine, lately? No doubt you have seen Johnny Miller’s beautiful still photographs.

Originally from Kansas, Miller was trained in Photography at Parsons School of Design and furthered his education while assisting the famous Mary Ellen Mark.

As a still photographer, his favorite things to photograph are single, found objects -and he has been shooting them ever since he found his father’s articles from Vietnam.

His latest book (with Baptiste Lignel) Coney Island features found objects around Coney Island and they are paired with documentary-style images from Lignel. While the book isn’t available everywhere yet, you can purchase a copy here or here.

Clients include Martha Stewart magazines, Target, Nylon, ESPN, Kate Spade, Chase Bank, Cookie, and more. He also has some exciting projects coming up: books he just finished shooting for Design*Sponge and Paper + Cup.

When not shooting, Johnny likes perusing A Photo Editor and Emmas DesignBlogg for news and inspiration. Johnny is currently based in Dumbo Brooklyn.

Johnny’s work is such an inspiration to me and I’m thrilled to have had the chance to interview him. To see more of his beautiful projects and photography, click here.

Here is our interview, for you:

01. How did you get your start?
Initially, I took a photography classes in Junior High with a wonderful teacher Dr. Pat Boyd (Who got me my first job, you can see it on my site under personal) and fell in love with it from day one. I ended up attending Parsons School of Design for photography where I started to assist Mary Ellen for a few years.

02. Do you think your style has changed through the years? In what ways?

Yes and no, From where I started in school yes, I studied documentary photography at Parsons so I was running around with my M6 thinking about the decisive moment, it was when I started my project My Father’s Memories from Vietnam: 1963-1971 (where you can also see on my site under personal) that I started focusing on still life. From there I have been mildly obsessed with single object. I’m constantly reevaluating my approach to my subject matter.

03. Anyone or anything influencing your work?

It’s such a constant mismash throughout the day from music I’m listening to to what I see on the street to my subway ride…

04. What equipment did you start with? What equipment do you shoot with now?
In Jr. High/High School, I was shooting a Minolta 35mm. then in college I shot mainly Leica & Hasselblad. But now it is really a mix with the RZ, Hasselblad, and Sinar.

05. Why were you interested in photographing family heirlooms?
Well, it all started with my father’s kit bag project, all of these objects were so interesting and the idea that these were things that my father collected and carried was really important to me. The love letters came after the kit bag, I found 3 love letters and a few reel to reel audio tapes (that I had digitized) in the kit bag and started looking for more… I think I found maybe 300-400 more letters…

06. What is your favorite camera to shoot with?
I was just given a Fuji SP1 Polaroid camera and I have my grandfather’s Polaroid land camera. The quality of Polaroid is amazing and you can’t reproduce it.

07. Do you shoot much for yourself
All the time. Coney Island is the project I have been focusing on the last three years (with fellow photographer and friend Baptiste Lignel) The project was just published and finally has made its way to bookstores (Dashwood Books in NYC and Photoeye in Santa Fe). I photographed found objects and paired them with Baptiste’s images of people on the boardwalk. I’ve also started a project on memory -playing with the idea of mixing things that are both meaningful and not meaningful.

08. What has been your favorite story to shoot so far?
It was for Cookie magazine, called the Alternative Archivist story -which was a story about alternative ways to archive your children’s objects/memories. They gave me two weeks to shoot it and left me alone.

Another great project was for Paper + Cup for Chronicle books. Randi Brookman Harris was the stylist and did a great job. (Johnny got special permission to let us preview this image below!)

09. Any advice you can give to someone entering your field?
The only thing I’d say is find the photographer whose work you’re absolutely in love with and assist for them. I learned more from assisting than I did in school. What I love about my current assistant is that she understands etiquette, is quiet on set, and is always two steps ahead.

Thank you, Johnny!

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30 Responses to “friday feature: johnny miller”

  1. Kaela Cusack

    i LOVE this Friday feature! it’s my favorite so far. his family projects inspire me to photography my own family objects as a way to preserve their history. fabulous stuff :)

  2. Jen

    Awesome interview! I wish I had discovered my love for photography as early as jr. high.

    I like the textures of his work.

  3. mariana

    really inspiring. I had seen his work before, and loved it, so it is really great to get an insight into the person behind those beautiful images

  4. jomama

    that story that he shot for in cookie magazine is one of my favorites ever, so inspiring and something i still hang on to.

  5. Tabitha Davidson

    Great interview! His images are full of character. I love that he included his first job on his website. viewing his work has been very inspiring and has also reminded me to be true to myself and my own work. thank you!

  6. cindy

    i love johnny’s work and it’s wonderful to learn more about the person behind the camera. although a newbie-photographer and a member of family of collectors, i really enjoy photographing our things and find his work very inspiring. thanks to you both!

  7. Meredith

    His work is beautiful! Any idea where I might be able to find that Alternative Archivist story he did for Cookie? I’m looking for ways to preserve my little girl’s memories and would love to see his work.

  8. Ksenia

    Thank you for sharing. Beautiful work that strikes a certain chord with me personally — as I too am interested in preserving family heirlooms

  9. Kasandra16

    Nicole – I just love reading your friday features! Your questioning is always so informative and really gives a lot of insight into the person behind the pictures.

    Johnny – Thank you so much for being a friday feature guest. I’ve seen your work before and it’s just beautiful. My father was in Vietnam also … he took many, many pictures. Thanks for sharing your work and your insights.

  10. Merissa Cherie

    An inspiring interview and an AWESOME photographer!

    My favorite question was #4: What equipment did you start with? What equipment do you shoot with now?

    I’m always aching to find out what cameras the pros use! :D


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