xxxxxxxxThe earth is art.
xxxxxxxxThe photographer is only the witness

… 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 epicurean.
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 pepper.

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 brings.

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.










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