I Get By With A Little Help From My Vendors

“Scream Queens” opens up next week and there were a couple small businesses involved that are worth mentioning.

Blue Cube Printing is a service in Portland that I have do all my printing.  Why use a service in Portland?  Because

A. I can’t stand printing myself.  Ink and paper cost a fortune and maintaining a good printer is difficult.  If a business prints for you, they can do it better, cheaper, and they have to give you a decent product.

B. Blue Cube is fast, prints on Fuji Crystal Archive paper, and is cheaper than local alternatives.

I was lucky to get my stuff printed during one of Blue Cube’s sales.  Each of my 20×30″ images was $9.99.  Compare that to $20, $30 at other places.

The other business is Image 3D.  They create custom Viewmaster reels, starting around $25 (less if you just want a reel and no Viewmaster).  As a marketing tool it’s awesome- no one can resist picking it up, flipping through it, oooohhing and ahhhhhing.

my first custom viewmaster real, a sample of portfolio fashion work done in a pseudo-color wheel.

My aesthetic has a lot to do with being a manchild, so having toys involved in the show experience is crucial.


Influences: Adrian Younge

Adrian Younge is one of those artists whose work I’d admired and enjoyed for a few years, but I wasn’t aware of anything about the creative mind behind the work.  Younge is a musician, producer, dj and composer- all arrows pointing the same direction, but it helps to clarify which hats he wears.  He was responsible for the amazingly period perfect soundtrack to 2009’s Black Dynamite.  I remember watching that movie maybe 10 times in a row.  Recently he released two albums, one a collaboration with Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah, and “Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics,” a mix of Ennio Morricone sounds with classic soul.

In a previous post I mentioned my fondness for getting period work correct- that is, something referring to the 70s should actually look and feel authentic to its period.  Younge is someone with a similar thought process and he elaborated on it in a recent episode of Fresh Air.  All the gear in his studio is vintage and his production and mixing processes are similar to the way things were done in the 60s and 70s.

In his interview with Terry Gross, he pulled no punches when discussing the music of modern times, saying there’s no song composition to modern hip hop, that the clean compressed studio sound of 2013 didn’t speak to him at all.  Terry pointed out he was an example of what the music world ideally would want of someone who utilized sampling- Younge would take notice of the original sampled sounds and seek out their originators, as opposed to merely plundering bits and bobs and pretending he created everything.

Whenever I find a creative mind that thinks like Adrian Younge- who sets the mood via equal parts unique technical production and a strong concept behind the work- I feel validated in the kind of stuff I create that strives for those same qualities.  You aren’t going to hear “Adrian Younge featuring Britney Spears, remix featuring Kid Cudi and Snoop Dogg” but you will hear an artist devoted to an aesthetic that is universally relatable as much as it is uniquely his own.

David Miller Phoneographyworks

My mother brain dead in her last moments.  I wouldn't have brought up all my photo gear for this image but I had my phone with me and wanted to show my sister in Arizona what to expect.
My mother brain dead in her last moments. I wouldn’t have brought up all my photo gear for this image but I had my phone with me and wanted to show my sister in Arizona what to expect.

When Instagram claimed rights to all photos shot using its processing/ sharing app, I deleted my account within seconds.  It didn’t matter that they backtracked on their new policy later that day, I decided that as a mere processing and sharing tool it wasn’t worth the hassle.  I spend/ waste more than enough social networking time on Facebook, tumblr, model mayhem, soundcloud, and WordPress to have  another virtual mouth to feed.  It is way too much narcissism as is, and so far only one of those sites (Facebook) gives me any regular work.  Not to mention there are many other photo filter apps out there that don’t exaggerate their importance.

shot inside an antique store

Now, on my phone home screen, I have a “picture frame” containing my instagrammed photos of my children.  They are quite lovely but the gallery no longer grows.  In the last two months, I made the concious choice to fall back in love with my ancient (3 years old) Nikon D700, and forced myself to do all the personal photos with it rather than leaving it up to the phone to fill that gap.  I was better with this other device that weighed more, required more thought to use correctly, and took significantly more time to process in the computer, but in the end the effort seems to pay off.

Patrick dressing up at the grocery store.

At this point, some might say “why don’t you just photography with all the devices at your disposal?”  For myself, I need some parameters to my shooting.  I am not the kind of person always shooting, capturing every boring moment of my day.  I can’t convince myself a phone shot is good enough when I could have done it better with the D700 or view camera, but it is so easy to convince oneself when they rely on the phone camera at all times.


I have no doubt that there are phoneographers making great work, many of whom wouldn’t be doing any photography at all if not for the convenience and freedom allowed by apps.  And there are definitely many photos that simply cannot be shot by the average person without their phone- shots in stores, at concerts, inside small objects, etc.  But the psychology of shooting is greatly affected by what tool the photographer uses, and settling for convenience is a poor motivation for making art the best you can.

March/ April schedule

For anyone interested, I have a number of events and classes scheduled over the next month:

March 27th, 28th and 30th I am teaching a 3 day Adobe Lightroom workshop at Art Intersection in Gilbert

April 5th is the opening of “Scream Queens” at MonOrchid in Phoenix.

April 6th and 7th I’ll be in LA with my family, attending a Clint Mansell performance and visiting Hive Gallery.

April 9th and 11th start a new round of classes I teach for City of Tempe, “DSLR Basics” and “Creative Mobileography”

April 12th is the Mesa Art Walk where I’ll have tons of new ceramics and photos on sale

April 13th starts a new round of classes I teach at Mesa Arts Center, “Cartooning” and “Pastels”

April 19th is the Chandler Art Walk where I’ll have tons of new ceramics and photos on sale

April 24th starts a new round of the Beginning Photography class at Tumbleweed in Chandler

April 26th in conjunction with my “Scream Queens” show, the Phoenix Film Bar is showing a collection of B-movie trailers

Got a few shoots lurking in their as well, and a trip to Omaha pending decent weather.  I’m just happy to be busy!

Joel Sartore: At Close Range

National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore was a big influence on me, not so much in his style or subject matter but the simple fact he was from Nebraska.  Not many people associated with Nebraska go on to any sort of fame in their field- Matthew Sweet, Warren Buffet, Connor Oberst, Johnny Carson being some of the exceptions- still a pretty short list. I caught Sartore speaking at a local college back in 2000 and he made a big impression on me.  He was a genuine guy who did great work and was recognized for it, and made a living at it, which in general terms is where I want to find myself as  a photographer.  At Close Range is a NG documentary on the man and his work.

Sartore never shys away from peeling back the curtain from what others may think is a glamorous, adventurous job.  He’s contracted many diseases including one that will stay with him for the rest of his life.  His family openly weep when he leaves on a trip, then make big decisions while he’s off in the field, such as buying a house.  These kind of sacrifices are what’s necessary to go where Sartore needs to go, do what he has to do to get the great images that can uplift communities and preserve nature preserves from devastation.

At Close Range is currently showing on Netflix.

Making Use of ART101 in Photography

model Lacheln in her Death/ Siouxsie Sioux inspired look. Although the model fills the space, the blank canvas of her upper torso is broken by the symbol- working opposite the light and dark areas of the top half of the photo. Very “yin and yang.”

In a recent Grid videocast, Scott Kelby dismissed a commenter who encouraged further study of art and design to improve his photography.  I don’t specifically remember Scott’s rationale but it had something to do with “I never had art classes” etc.  I don’t want to pick on Scott, as he’s often correct in his opinion, but this is an area where I completely disagree with him.

model Lacheln underneath an pattern of lines and beads.

Art education usually starts with exploring the Elements of Art-

1. texture

2. form

3. space

4. shape

5. color

6. value

7. line

Unusual colors come from digital hand painting on a black and white photograph. The pallette is cool colored pastels. Model Victoria Vertuga, design Runaway Couture, makeup Mynxii White, hair Victoria Buge.

and the Principles of Design

1. Unity

2. Scale

3. Pattern/ Rhythm

4. Balance

5. Hierarchy/ Dominance

6. Point/ Line/ Plane (Persepective)

a pattern of clouds against a glassy texture, broken by the out-of-place “A”.

An artist or designer draws from these ideas in any visual composition, so photography naturally can make good use of this.  I don’t necessarily think about these tools night and day and design shoots around them, but I’m experienced enough that I use them all the time- for instance, telling a family to keep colors to a basic family of cool or warm or Earth tones, or shooting a shiny motorcycle amongst contrasting textures.

Literal use of line around form in this image of model Hattie Watson. Embroidery by Vesna Miller, makeup by Mynxii White.

My experience has been that the average person will gauge a photo based on color over all the other elements.  They may be drawn to colors that pop, or colors that register emotion.  People that love black and white images are heavily focused on having all the values represented.  Appreciators of traditional fine art nudes are highly invested in shape and form.  These are all important, and can be the seeds of good ideas, but the work really improves when the creator plays with all the tools.  Cool shapes, proper use of positive and negative space, with an engaging rhythm, great color or value, believable textures… all in one image.

I don’t want to suggest that everything that makes great imagery is all about formal qualities.  It’s a good concept + knowing your tools + knowing what you’re doing + being and knowing yourself.

Scream Queens – A New Cinematic Photo Series Produced By David Miller

Postcard for my upcoming solo shot at MonOrchid.

Postcard for my upcoming solo show at Phoenix’s MonOrchid.

My first legit solo show!  MonOrchid is an amazing facility full of offices for creatives, photo studios, a coffee shop and store so I’m thrilled to be showing in this nearly sentient space.  They will be screening a “scream queen” themed film later in the month to coincide with the show, and I’ve had some Viewmasters made up highlighting the images.