Born in ’64, Mike Miller spent his early years inspired by the skate, surf and film industry in his home town, Los Angeles. Heading to Europe to work on fashion photography, Miller soon found himself back in LA and right in the middle of a booming music industry. Juxtapoz’s photo editor Estevan Oriol sat down with the LA photographer, here’s what happened.
At first glance Mike Miller appears to fit the profile of what a slightly older poster-boy for Los Angeles should look like. Complete with a seasoned beard and a checkered shirt, the type made famous by the city’s native Latino’s. It is about midway through his fourth sentence that I assure myself that this middle-aged man has seen most of it, if not all. Name dropping hip-hop heavyweights such as Eazy-E, Tupac and Cypress Hill could not have been any easier as this filmmaker/photographer made it seem.
His clientele list could well bring peace to the Middle East. After studying film at UCLA, Miller’s first gig was as assistant director on a Warner Brother film set. During a short-lived hiatus from film, Miller made a transition to photography, after which he went on to shoot album covers for hip-hop groups who sprung up from the inner city.
It’s only when you tight with the band, you start to click with them and you see them developing, then they always put you down (Miller)
It’s evident that Miller’s ability to rise up in the industry grew from his familiarities of the West Coast scene together with the subcultures it prided itself on. Behind him – in what seems to be Miller’s editing suite – sits two monitors along with a dozen of hard drives dedicated to commercials and short films. At that moment, Miller withdraws a black and white portrait of Jack Nicholson of which he thankfully reclines mentioning too much about, the mystery in which it now lingers in is appealing.
‘I have a book I’m working on now, it’s about living in New York Miller,’ says Miller. Since this interview, the book – titled West Coast Hip Hop: A History In Pictures – was published (February, 2012) with an exhibition that followed in April.
It is on that notion whereby I label him as a truly gratifying artist considering that Miller’s bread and butter was the City of Angles. Miller is also currently working on full length feature film. I’m uncertain as to whether or not Mike Miller prefers to continue his work incognito or if he’s doubtfully still trying to catch a break. Because not being mainstream is mainstream right?
words: Kurt Mullins
images: © Mike Miller | michaelmillerphotography.com