Caroline Miller

Photographer
@carolinemillerphotography

Interview by Charlie Price
Edited by Tiaja Pierre

You have an eccentric, unpretentious but very detailed approach to fashion photography – how did this unique approach evolve?

This is the first time I have heard my photography described that way, but I love it! I am pretty sure the eccentricity is just naturally being myself and being brought up by a creative, full of life French-Canadian mother. I could not be pretentious if I tried, as I am more the classic artist archetype; where nothing is good enough and always chasing perfect creation. The detailed approach most likely comes from a hint of perfectionism, a life-learning discipline and dedication. I really have just naturally gravitated towards anything creative and artistic throughout my life. Now I love pouring all my experiences into my photography. As a kid you could not stop me from drawing or dancing. When I reached the age of six I found a deep love for figure skating that then turned into a full career. The discipline in learning that sport definitely has transferred now to photography. I get that same addicting feeling of wanting to learn and express. Words have never been my strong suit, so as an entertainer using my body for expression was necessary. Now with photography using images, it is my way to release emotion and this endless compulsion to create.

Traveling the world has played such an important part in how I approach photography as well as that I am self-taught and started a completely different career at the age of 30. I think having a wide view of the world and fashion along with lack of proper “do and do not” of fashion and photography has actually given me the freedom to just go with what I see and feel. No set rules makes my approach to fashion photography with a mix of intuition, playfulness and curiosity.

You do most of the fashion styling for your shoots – it is obvious that you love doing it – have you always had an interest in curating fashion?

One hundred percent, yes! I was that annoying kid that would not let my parents dress me. I made my friends play dress up but I had to choose the clothes. Amazingly no one stopped me from wearing a full snowsuit with a ballet tutu, jelly shoes and a beret hat. I was always into fashion design as I initially had plans to become a fashion designer. As a kid I always designed my own skating dresses and soon started my own business of designing dresses for other skaters in the area. I would sketch out colorful illustrations that they would then take to seamstresses to have made. I have books and books of illustrations I drew from the age of five to twenty, of all kinds of fashion designs. I started sewing classes in high school as well as photography classes so I would make pieces of clothing, dress my friends in it and photograph it!

I was accepted to Parsons New School of Design in New York to pursue a Fashion Design degree but deferred it a year as I was asked to go ice skate professionally in Europe. I never went, as skating became my career. I never lost my love for fashion and believe that becoming a professional entertainer actually enhanced my ability to create a story with clothing. For the longest time I did not even realize that full Creative Direction was a role I was taking on with my photo shoots. It just came naturally to envision the shoot’s full concept, style and execution. I really just thought that was part of the job of being a photographer. As I have delved more into my career, I have realized being a Creative Director or Fashion Stylist is something I can do for other companies or photographers, as well. I love it!

You are untrained but have a keen eye for beauty and fashion photography. How did you nurture it? 

I think having a voracious appetite to learn is what pushes me to keep going with my photography. I also leave room for pure intuition. The beauty of the arts is that there is no end game; there is always something to try or experiment with. Whether it is new people or ideas coming into my life that will inspire me to try something new. I love to go through magazines, Instagram, YouTube videos, to find new techniques or styles to try. I am definitely not a technical photographer, most of the time I get frustrated with technology and lighting as I am so visual and have it perfect in my head. It really is a trick to transfer that to lighting equipment but I am working on it!

I also learn by asking myself a lot of questions and try to look at fashion photography from all sides. What is the story being told? How can I portray that mood with light and angles? What twist can I add to it to make it unique? What location, hair, makeup and wardrobe will bring it together cohesively? It all whirls around in my brain in flashes of color and images. The trick is to lay it all out for others to follow. I am pretty detail oriented and a big believer in keeping energy flowing. I really try to have everything organized for my teams when shooting. In the end it allows everyone to focus and create to the best of their ability. It makes it easy for me to capture my eccentric visions!

You travelled the world as a professional ice skater on cruise ships. How has all that travel impacted your eye for style? 

I not only travelled on cruise ships but also ice-skated for a large company in Europe (Holiday on Ice). Some of the places I traveled were: Germany, France, some of the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Hungary and more, for over two years! Then I was skating on cruise ships for about eight years that took me all through The Caribbean, The Mediterranean, up to the North and Baltic Sea, down to Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania. My travels skating for 12 plus years took me to over 50 countries and I cannot even begin to express how much it affected my style and life in general! It was so wonderful meeting people of so many different cultures. Being an observer, people watching was my absolute favorite.

I think because of travel I found a love of color and mixing/matching styles in unique ways. It has made me more fearless in experimenting as I have seen some pretty unique combinations. I truly believe that if you take away all the pretentiousness and status that often tags onto the word “Fashion” you can see that there really is some raw self-expression out there using clothing. I feel it is beautiful! I must say on another note, traveling has opened my eyes to the importance of staying away from fast fashion. Without getting too deep into it, I cannot stress enough the importance of buying a few but better quality pieces that last. Not only is it better for the environment and humanity but also you are able to use your creativity to come up with new ways to wear the same piece! Take it from someone who basically lived out of suitcases for over a decade. Make it fun!

What legendary photographers do you admire? 

I love the classics like Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, but I really love the fantasy of Tim Walker. His composition of beautiful and strange is something I strive for in my work. Taking an idea or style and twisting it just slightly, that is what I love. Some other photographers I really love are Mario Testino and Steven Meisel, of course! Emotions captured by Luigi and Iango, vibrant colors by Elena Iv-skaya and insanely good lighting as well as editing by Desiree Mattsson.

What does being a citizen of The West mean to you?

To me, it means more than cowboy boots and tumbleweeds that is for sure. Denver is a continually growing melting pot with amazing talent just ready to boil over. I am proud of being from the West and living in a place that values ingenuity, kindness and all around quality of life. I am eager to continue to try and mesh high fashion with the raw scenery and creativity all around me. I truly think it could be a unique and magical combination.