MIKE MILLER PHOTO IS WHAT TRIBE
Mike Miller might be one of the best known unknown photographers you’ve never heard of. In the Instagram age with its built-in filters, everyone’s a (supposed) photographer now. This insta-photo phenomenon might make photos accessible but Mike Miller’s photo expertise has been known since the late 80’s for capturing subject matter and captivating viewers. We were honored to have him as one of many featured artists in ” What Tribe” at Self Help Graphics in Los Angeles. His photo “Eazy Does It” with Eazy E posing with Natas Kaupas skateboard is perfect for a show about stereotype(s). The juxtaposition of two disparate “tribal “sub-cultures from Venice to South Central L.A. was a telling take on how prevalent each would eventually become. It was a sly twist on fashion, culture, sports and music media breaking invisible barriers validating and placing youth culture at the forefront.
MIke a California native has been shooting film for fashion, editorial and music for over three decades. His photos are iconic slices of California life along the lines of Craig Stecyk, Glenn Friedman and the more recent photo work of Estevan Oriol. All the photographers mentioned caught musicians, skaters, artists and creatives during early career trajectory. They pioneered capturing culture as it was being made. Later celeb photogs like Larry Clark would attempt emulation of their “less is more” raw style(s).
What is fascinating about the work of Mike Miller are his dark photo stylings mixed with the airy light of California. There is a thin line between the love and hate of the promised land in his work. His photos almost feel created in a vacuum that only Southern Californians can see, hear, know and feel. He seemingly captures L.A. hedonism as it slows down to take a sip of its own gin and juice before hitting backstreet hide outs. Mike Miller saw West Coast hip hop unfold and his classic photos may have even helped shape its visual language as well. Tragically two of Mike’s most iconic subjects, Tupac Shakur and Eazy E, are now deceased.
His self-published, “Michael Miller Photography: West Coast Hip Hop A History In Pictures is a walk down a West Coast
hip hop memory lane. His book is an atypical “who’s who ” of G-Funk luminaries. It’s a testament to any artists struggle, hustle and work ethic as they publish their own work due to lack of art gallery or music label representation. Mike has a few irons in the fire currently. Finishing up edits of his film documentary as well as launching a new multi-media website keep him busy.
Keep your eyes open and don’t sleep because Mike Miller is doing more than just California Dreaming.
Mike Miller & Douglas Miles photo
by JOPEN1 for ieLAvate Mag.
We were a long way from San Carlos, Salt River and Window Rock Arizona. We were with friends though. It was one of the hottest weeks in L.A. Even though we’re from AZ, we felt that California heat. Maybe we brought it from AZ? The What Tribe E.L.A. show was hosted by Self Help Graphics and curated by Douglas Miles. Our last venue was in Phoenix AZ. Denver University in Colorado kicked it off the What Tribe concept in Fall 2012. Now it has traveled to Los Angeles. Boyle Heights East Los to be exact.
What Tribe was meant to be a discussion on the negative proliferation of stereotypes of Native people and other ” tribes” in media. It still is. I wanted to allow artists to creative a proactive dialogue, not a reactionary one which we see too often via social media. However the show has now become a way to bring various ” tribes” together in tacit unity to have a greater discussion away from the environs of academia and art institutions that pander to an uninformed apathetic mainstream.
Via the What Tribe mural project, we wanted to reclaim and reinstate our own (Native) images via art in a larger context. As we shared with the diverse L.A. community our own perspective from our reservation city and tribal backgrounds, we inform and share our own aesthetic. Our unique tribal view is actually missing from one of the largest cities in the world. At the same time we aren’t pandering nor looking for pity from the art mainstream or society at large. Our art speaks for itself.
After having this discussion with Vyal Reyes ( Artist-In-Residence S.H.G.) and Evonne Gallardo ( Director of Self Help Graphics) they suggested we do the wall at Self Help Graphics. I’m sure I’m leaving something out of this story. It’s only meant to detail the birth of the mural and not the exhibition itself.
Summers last gasp and the the WhatTRIBE Project co-existed. Follow now as the all-seeing eye of Eriberto ORIOL documents a small mural project we did at Self Help Graphics & Art with Renelle White Buffalo , Thomas Breeze Marcus & Vyal Reyes. I .
WHAT TRIBE Project
Artist / Curator
APACHE CHRONICLE at
Museum of Contemporary Native Arts
Screening in the Helen Hardin Media Gallery
Directed by Nanna Dalunde &
with Apache Skateboards
Santa Fe NM
THE 3 types of stereotypical “Native-Theme” photography.
1: Airbrushed Landscape or pseudo-glam model
2: Faux/ pseudo historical , Edward S. Curtis anthropology type.
3: “Poverty Portfolio” focusing on environment, depression or addiction of Native People.
I want my photography to be a reflection of understated forgotten beauty and raw power of Native and Tribal People, not as victims but as victors in spite of it all. Stereotypes and categories aside, stay proud and be yourself.
Douglas Miles / photographer