Story about Michael Miller Photography / Relationship with Thug Life Vol. 1

 

 

 

Michael Miller and Paul Stewart had capped a successful Kickstarter project and planned a digital imprint of their book, a collection of photographs from the golden era of West Coast hip hop, called West Coast Hip Hop: A History In Photos. But the coffee table book garnered enough interest for a hard cover edition and fine art print show, opening this Saturday at Known Gallery.

 

"I started shooting in 1988, in Paris," says Miller. "I was actually painting houses and I just happened to meet Peter Lindbergh, the world-renowned fashion photographer. He gave me my first professional camera. I helped him out on a few shoots." Miller had his first big job with Cacharel, a huge French fashion brand. He shot Linda Evangelista, Karen Mulder, and Elaine Erwin, some of the era's biggest supermodels.

 

But getting access to supermodels would prove simple compared to the likes of Tupac Shakur, Cypress Hill and Ice Cube.

 

Never-Before-Seen Photos of Tupac and Eazy-E From New Book West Coast Hip Hop: A History In Photos

Michael Miller

However, Miller, being an L.A. native and passionate hip hop fan paired with Stewart, then a street promoter who later would head Def Jam's west coast branch. The two connected the dots and forged a mutually beneficial working relationship. "The artists had to know you," Miller explains. "I met DJ Muggs when he just got off the DMC World DJ Championship, the largest in the world. His roommate was DJ Aladdin. This was all before he started Cypress Hill."

 

Miller scanned over 3000 images for the book, with only 70 making the cut. Admittedly he included a few photos that were less technically clean than close to his heart. West Coast Hip Hop: A History in Photos includes exclusive stories and images. Many times, he eschewed traditional studio settings for L.A. landscapes; perfect lighting for amazing, pre-Photoshop double exposures. Miller caught The Alkoholiks in a liquor store cooler on Sunset (the cover of 1993's 21 + Over), Dre and Snoop on the boards for The Chronic, and -- wait for it -- Eazy-E with a skateboard.

 

"That image is close to me, because I grew up skateboarding," explains Miller. "It happens to be a Natas Kaupas deck. Natas gave me that board. I was waiting for Eazy, just skating around and he showed up and he hopped on it for a second. He didn't actually skate, but it was cool."

 

 

Despite a packed schedule of advertising jobs, being able to work on the fly helped Miller assimilate to the artists and their crews. He shot covers for the likes of Priority, Death Row, Jive and EMI Records for 20 years, essentially documenting the careers of Coolio, Mack 10, Westside Connection, DJ Quik, Too Short, Ice T, Yo-Yo, Funk Dubious, King Tee, Suga Free, Supa Fly, House of Pain and Snoop Dogg, from demo to full rotation on KDAY.

 

 

Never-Before-Seen Photos of Tupac and Eazy-E From New Book West Coast Hip Hop: A History In Photos

Michael Miller

 

"We'd have a game plan. So when I got down to doing the work, even though I'd take Tupac to East L.A. to Pasadena and back to downtown, it worked out great. You've got Tupac with the tombstones and the guns," says Miller as he shows a particularly iconic portrait of Shakur against a graffiti wall. "I haven't really been showing people this book -- 90% of these images have been in my archives and storage. Never been used."

 

The print show and book signing at Known promises to bring out quite a few of the personalities in the book and plenty of their old and new fans. Even for those who grew up seeing Miller's images of N.W.A, Dub C, Warren G and Sir Mix A lot, it will be an introduction to the photographer himself as he's been behind the scenes until now. "Mike hasn't been bragging about having this huge body of work, so people don't really know, explains Stewart, now publisher at his own Over the Edge books. " This was my dream book."

 

 

 

 

 A History In Pictures is a 200-page 9" x 12" coffee table book that collects Miller's images of many of hip-hop's most important artists (e.g. Tupac Shakur, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Snoop Dogg, Too $hort etc.) in their '90s prime. After launching his 

career in fashion, Los Angeles-native Miller photographed his first hip-hop artist, Arabian Prince, in the late '80s. His work on a Stussy campaign won the admiration of DJ Muggs, who asked Miller

 

to shoot his new group, Cypress Hill. And the rest, as they say, is history. Featuring the stories behind the photos from Miller himself as well as a foreword 

by Paul "DJ P" Stewart - former Pharcyde manager, A&R wizard, and all around West Coast hip-hop man in the mix - it's an essential Westside document

 

 

Reisig & Taylor Photography / Andreas . P .Design & Modellierungs Corp.LTD
Reisig & Taylor Photography / Andreas . P .Design & Modellierungs Corp.LTD
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Michael Miller’s photographs capture a unique era of West Coast culture, combining the emerging genres of gangster rap, skateboard culture, Los Angeles street culture, and the iconic personalities who help turn West Coast rap into a global phenomenon. 

Capturing intimate portraits of hip-hop legends 2pac, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Cypress Hill, as well as iconic advertising campaigns with street fashion giant, Stussy, Michael Miller photographs hearken back to a pivotal moment in history where he took rap, surf, skate, punk, and street fashion fused into one image.

The Los Angeles-based photographer has worked in the entertainment and music industry for over 25 years, with a portfolio of over 300 major record covers, iconic supermodels of the ‘90s, and some of the biggest names in rap and jazz.

 

 

Influenced by the techniques of Peter Lindberg, Paulo Roversi and Javier Vallhonrat, Miller has developed a unique method of cross-processing film and different chemical baths for his black and white photographs. A graduate of UCLA with a B.A. in Film and Television, Miller moved to Paris and met top agent Rene Bosne. With Bosne’s mentorship, Miller began to shoot photographs, gradually gaining jobs shooting models for John Casablancas’ agency. After moving to Barcelona to shoot campaigns fro Cacharel Paris, Miller returned to Los Angeles in 1988 to shoot for Herb Ritts’ agency, Visages. Gaining recognition within the fashion industry, the music world took notice, and by the end of 1988, Miller photographed his first rapper, Arabian Prince.

 

 

For West Coast Hip-Hop: A History in Pictures at FIFTY24SF Gallery, Michael Miller will be presenting a series of his iconic early 1990?s hip-hop photographs, including numerous photos of 2pac, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Snoop Dogg, Warren G, as well as photos of unique historical perspectives on Los Angeles street culture. Coinciding with Miller’s exhibition, we will have famed San Francisco musicians, Tommy Guerrero and ORB DJing the opening on Friday, April 27, 2012. On Saturday, April 28, from 2—4PM, Miller will be signing copies of his West Coast Hip-Hop: A History in Pictures at our FIFTY24SF Gallery.

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Miller is a simple man with an extraordinary life in photography. Over the past 25 years, he has built an expansive portfolio that includes over 300 major record covers, the most iconic supermodels of the ‘90s and some of the biggest names in rap and jazz.

 

Miller was born and raised in Los Angeles and recalls the only radio station that came in clear where he lived during his teenage years was AM 1580 KDAY. As a Santa Monica High School student in the midst of the punk, surf and skate scene, he was listening to RUN DMC, Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick.

 

Miller graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Film and Television and after college, he took a trip with friends to explore Paris where he met then boxer turned top agent Rene Bosne, who in time became Miller’s roommate in Paris and introduced Miller to his first camera. Miller began landing jobs shooting models for John Casablanca and later relocated to Barcelona, Spain where he began to build an impressive portfolio shooting for major campaigns such as Cacharel Paris.

 

Influenced by the techniques of Peter Lindberg, Paulo Roversi and Javier Vallhonrat, Miller developed a method of cross processing film and different chemical baths for black and white photographs. He was on to something that was still undiscovered in the United States, sharing his method with fellow photographers such as Anton Corbijn.

 

Homesick, Miller returned to his Los Angeles stomping grounds in 1988 and was immediately picked up by Herb Ritts’ agency Visages, shooting three advertisements for Vogue in the first month. His recognition for technique and style in fashion photography gained him attention in the music industry. By the end of 1988, he had photographed his first rapper, Arabian Prince

 

Impressed with his major campaign for Stussy, DJ Muggs (7A3, Cypress Hill) asked Miller to photograph the demo for a new project titled Cypress Hill that led Miller to becoming a heavily sought after photographer for the hip-hop community.

Miller continues shooting for advertisment campaigns, major publications, celebrities and musicians. He currently resides with his wife and two daughters in Los Angeles. His inaugural show, West Coast Hip Hop, A History in Pictures, will display 43 photos, majority of which have never been shown to the public

 

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