Harold Lee Miller is a fine art and advertising photographer who lives in Indianapolis and travels the country on assignment and personal projects.
Born in Arkansas, Miller was the child of an Army officer who was posted throughout the world. As a result he acquired an outsider’s eye, which serves him to this day as a photographer and human observer.
In 2005, he began photographing people and their animals at county and state fairs in Indiana. Over the next four years he created a body of work documenting the unique subculture that inhabits fairs, resulting in the publication in 2010 of Fair Culture, a photography book published by the Historical Society Press.
“My interest in fairs was connected directly to a feeling that I had missed this very thing I was seeing – people from small communities whose identities were in part provided to them by their culture and environment. It’s a far different thing than having to create one for yourself, which I had to do, and am still doing. My subjects were all individuals and unique, and they also came from this clearly defined world that was put on display every year at these gatherings of like-minded people.
“I didn’t try to explore their journey and struggle so much as document the ritual created to put their culture, and themselves, on display. The photographs have been described as clinical, and I agree that they are. I didn’t want to romanticize fair culture, I wanted to simply document it, but in a way that spoke to my feelings about it as well.”
In addition to his personal interest in the subject matter, the project gave Miller an opportunity to create a body of work on a single theme, over time, one that would also provide enough material for a book. He didn’t want to self-publish it, something that is certainly possible now for artists; he specifically wanted to create a collection of images that someone else – a book publisher – would want to publish and distribute.
Miller will discuss:
- Initiating a project with the end use pre-determined, and the risks that entails.
- How to identify a project worthy of your time, effort and resources.
- How important is it to define a project carefully before you begin?
- Should an artist focus attention on one area of interest, or spread it out over lots of different, divergent subjects and techniques?
- How important is a photographic style to a project?
- What is a photographic style?
- How to present your idea to a book publisher in a way that has a chance of interesting them in publishing it.
- How much money can you make doing a fine-art book? (Spoiler alert: little)
- If there’s no money in it, why are you doing it then?
- What has been the result of having a photography book published?
- How does it serve your personal ambitions and your economic needs?
Harold Lee Miller has a journalism degree from the University of Arkansas. He worked as a newspaper and magazine writer and editor for 10 years before opening an advertising photography studio in 1989.
His interest in photography began in 1972, when he was invited into his high school’s darkroom, and first saw black-and-white photographic prints developing in a tray. The magical quality of that process hooked him, and he began taking photographs at first just to have something to develop, but over time became attracted to the possibilities of creating perfection within a frame – images that were carefully composed, exposed, and presented, which is another way of saying, gaining control over a small part of his world.
Since that time, Miller has struggled to reconcile his need to make a living shooting photographs for assignment, and his need to create images that are entirely his own. The struggle continues daily.
Date: March 18, 2013
Location: Apple Store, 679 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611
Admission is free