interview ROWLAND AKINDURO
Complex Con was a whirlwind of modern digital culture with an urban centricity. The fusion of fashion, music and art inspired by what is commonly perceived to be the most progressive and dynamic sector in industry: the youth. Coachella Magazine was in our element exponentially. We were introduced to the next wave of taste makers in street style/art and musicians that could nearly insight riots with their hypnotic anthems. We witnessed an unprecedented host committee including major influencers like visual artist Takashi Murakami, award winning producer Skrillex, and Executive Chair Pharrell Williams. Complex Con seemingly brought to life all of the interesting and even controversial new media of todzay. Live interactive art installations, panels with cultural captains of their fields, and even a full on concert to top off the event was an extraordinary experience that will resonate eternally. Complex Con is by far the modern template for a multi-cultural contemporary expo. A captivating image of Tupac held within one of the many art installations initiated a rather serendipitous conversation with the world renowned photographer behind the photo who just happened to be there. We got a chance to chop it up with Mike Miller.
ROWLAND AKINDURO: How did you get started in photography?
MIKE MILLER: While living in Paris my friend gave me a camera, and there was a model apartment next-door. Right away my images where strong and I started shooting the models for their portfolios, so that kept me in Europe for a couple years, shooting portfolios for models. Then I began shooting different campaigns for European clothing brands, fashion houses etc. Cacharel Fashion House was my first big gig.
AKINDURO: How did you meet Tupac?
MILLER: Tupac? He found me, I was in the middle of the west coast hip hop scene. Take a look at my book [Michael Miller – West Coast Hip Hop: A History in Pictures] you’ll know why.
AKINDURO: Ok how did he find you?
MILLER: Hard work! I was shooting a lot of album covers and I was the go to man in the West. A brief history; It started out when I came back from Europe and I photographed 3 ads for American Vogue, then I told my agent I like hip-hop because I grew up listening to 1580 KDAY. My hip hop first shoot was Ice Cube for Spin Magazine in 1989. Then I shot Arabian Prince Album cover for RCA in 89, he just left the NWA. Then fast forward a little bit, I met a guy named DJ Muggs and we of created the image for Cypress hill demo. The photo is on the back of my book, it helped them get signed on roughhouse records with Joe the butcher. I hung out with Muggs and the cypress crew, we used to DJ together then I shot WC’s first cover. And the list goes on, I help create the West coast look.
AKINDURO: Do you have a certain kind of approach to photograph somebody as far as capturing their persona or who they are?
MILLER: Every photographer has their own approach of taking a photo; composition, how you relate to the person etc. I try to stay cool and calm, There is a lot of pressure on me to do a good job. Album covers where big money back in the day before Napster and free music ruined the music industry. We used to get paid! I would to get flown from Jamaica to Hawaii. I got flown to New York for Timbaland’s cover, Aaliyah, Missy Elliott; I photographed covers all over the world. I would show up search locations, and then go to work. I needed to get front, back covers, inside content, publicity, merchandise, single covers etc.. A lot of content in a short period of time.
AKINDURO: Did you ever get intimidated or nervous working with these acts?
MILLER: Every time. Every single time. Mainly because I was a fan. Back in the day, I’d be on the airplane going to New York or wherever tripping out that I was getting paid to shoot.
AKINDURO: What was the most fun you’ve had on set of a photo shoot?
MILLER: I was flown to Hawaii to do a cover and I surfed the north shore, that was a lot of fun. I went to Jamaica for Island Music that was dope. Tupac was a lot of fun because he was Tupac, he was at the height of his career. So when he hired me to do his cover. I was chilling with the thug life crew, that was dope. We spent a long day together that first time we shot together, good times. We shot three more times together.
AKINDURO:That’s cool. What about Snoop?
MILLER: Snoop’s the homie. Look at the back [his book] how many shots do I got of snoop? We did the last meal cover, movie posters, etc…
AKINDURO: Do you think there was more loyalty then than there is now as far as continued work?
MILLER: Well, YG is my homie he hired me for his 1st and 2nd cover so it’s all about connections if you want to be a photographer you got to know people. Last week I hung DJ mustard working on directing one of his viedo’s. A$AP [Rocky] has my art work and kicked it with him at his crib and shot him. Kendrick, Drake we have worked together.
AKINDURO: How did you connect with Complexcon?
MILLER: My wife told me last night, she goes, “you should be there knucklehead.” I don’t ever want to impose or bug people but I tried to go online and they were sold out. So I called Chief Keef’s manager,
MILLER: Thank You, My pleasure.