earth is art.
xxxxxxxxThe photographer is only the
… a comment from Yann Arthus-Bertrand about
his incredible photographs in La Terre Vue du Ciel.
(The following text was written by Khoa Pham for my exhibit
at Galerie J.-E. Bernard (Avignon). That exhibit consisted mainly
of photographs of vegetables. However, the observations in the text
are applicable to most of my work.)
Each of us interprets the things we see according to perspectives
unique to our backgrounds and being. When Herbert Miller goes to
market, he looks at the produce displayed at stand after stand from
two points of view … that of a photographer and that of an
The eye of the photographer sees color, texture, patterns, the play
of light. Sometimes that eye sees improbable juxtapositions of forms
and the foods themselves. The displays at each stand are those of
the merchants. The arrangement can be deliberate … for example,
the path of white asparagus wending its way through a field of strawberries
…but, the display can also seem to have happened by chance.
At the same time, the eye of the epicurean sees the freshness,
the flavors, the games that these ingredients might play in tantalizing
his taste buds. The bell peppers could be perfectly shaped or grotesquely
misshapen. Either way, they say to him, "Imagine the fine pipérade
you could make with us, or maybe just roast us … but, take
our picture first, please." In fact, the baby bok choy met
exactly that fate … first the picture and later lunch, blanched
and lightly sautéed in oil with just a touch of salt and
With Herbert, these perspectives are inseparable: image-food.
Market displays, in France and the United States, are the subject
matter on which Herbert Miller has concentrated since 1999. (Currently,
he is fascinated with cemeteries.) The compositions are "candid"
photographs, without arrangement or other interventions that change
what is there. These photos typically show a single product …
fruits, flowers, vegetables … filling the frame. The tight
framing creates fields of color, sometimes monochrome, sometimes
multi-color. From a distance, the subject becomes secondary to the
abstract motif that results from its aggregation or repetition.
Frequently, the graphic aspect of the photos is accentuated by a
simple underlying geometric structure: horizontal or vertical division,
alignment, banding … . The subject itself … the displays
viewed head-on have a shallow depth of field … helps create
the effect of a very pictorial surface, where colors and materials
acquire an independence from the subject matter itself.
Yet, these photographs never become completely abstract. They remain
tactile and concrete representations of objects that are almost
always shown life size. In details … such as the toothpick
in the netted bag of bell peppers, or the strangeness of the Japanese
radishes with green skin and pink flesh, or an archivist's concern
with precisely recording the places where the photographs were taken…
Herbert tells us that it is the specifics of the displays that intrigue
him. These specifics sometimes provoke comical metaphors: marching
artichokes, crabs lined up as Samurai helmets, a starry Hollywood
night of sea lavender … . All of this firmly anchor his photographs
in the tangible and in the immediate pleasure that this reality
Nothing in Herbert Miller's background would have foretold the
photography he is doing at markets. In fact, with degrees in mathematics
and education from the University of Rochester and a Doctor of Philosophy
in education from Syracuse University, he worked first as a faculty
member at the University of Southern California. For the last 30
years, he has been a consultant in education and training for organizations
such as IBM, Eastman Kodak, and Xerox.
Born in Rochester, New York, he has lived in Los Angeles since
1967. He now splits his time between Paris and Los Angeles.