Industrial beauty, now part of the historical record


Shot industrial landscapes in East Chicago yesterday for a new project I’m working on with the Indiana Historical Society.  I’ll be shooting all over the state creating images the IHS will archive in the aptly named Harold Lee Miller Collection.  These images will be part of the historical record.

Looking forward to more work on this important endeavor, which will allow future Americans to know more about who we were at this point in time…

Show tonight at my studio/gallery, The646, and here’s Eric Kass with a promise

Eric Kass is showing his collection of Ephemerotica at my studio/gallery for First Friday tonight. Lots of cool stuff and also Eric, who will exhaust you if you talk to him long enough. He has a lot to say and if you actually try to think about it as he speaks you’ll find yourself getting farther and farther behind, until you’ve given up all hope and can merely nod and look attentive. Or that’s the way it works for me anyway.Eric Kass with sign at show

It was all you can eat at The Excalibur. I had a salad.

Well not really.

Ad agency Virgen of Las Vegas had me out to The Excalibur Hotel and Casino to shoot a campaign about the great food they have at their buffet.  Five shots later, I managed to crawl back to my room to sleep off the excess.

They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but if that’s true, why did I weigh more when I got back than when I left?  Why is THAT?

And did you know that people are gambling in Vegas at 6 in the morning?  I was shocked, SHOCKED to see that there was gambling going on there.  At that hour.


It was cold but there was beer.

Did a lifestyle shoot for NewDay Craft‘s latest beer collection with Lars Lawson of Timber Design, and even though it was the middle of winter, somehow we did just fine.

A heroic effort by models and Lars.  At the end of the day we had a large collection of great images and a larger collection of empty bottles.  I held to my strict policy of not drinking while working, making me the greatest hero of all.



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Test shoot in Wicker Park with Galatea models plus Amber, Hank and Cooper

Harold_Lee_Miller_Wicker_Park02Did a test shoot in Wicker Park with producer Christy Schmid and models including four from Galatea.  Wanted to shoot from daylight into the early evening darkness, just to see if the images would hold together as a collection.  I think they do, you can be the judge (and critic, by commenting…)

Had a great time — thanks to Jenna Baltes and Meghana Prasad for H&M.

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A tiny film I just finished about bread: Amelia’s

When Tom Battista grew up, he remembers having great, fresh bread every day with his family.  He remembers all his friends having great bread, too.  Last year he founded a bakery to bring back old school, artisanal bread made locally, right in the neighborhood.

Here’s my minifilm about Tom and his bakery Amelia’s, named after his grandmother.

<p><a href=”″>Amelia’s Bakery</a> from <a href=”″>Harold Lee Miller</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

My column now running on APA national website

I’ve started a regular column on the APA national website.  The first one is on the site now

Here it is:


What’s your portfolio say about you?

by Harold Lee Miller

It’s hard for some artists to decide what work to show.

I’m one of those artists. As a lifestyle and portrait photographer, I want to populate my website and book with images that will attract assignments. I’ve got a lot of images and I regularly undergo a pretty fierce internal battle about what’s relevant.

The challenge can be confusing and complex but it really it comes down to this: do my website and portfolio reflect my skills, interests, and vision, or do they reflect my insecurities?

For me the answer is…both. It remains a work in progress.


Should your portfolio contain mostly your art?

One simple approach is to show potential clients only the kind of work you want to do. The photographer Stewart Cohen once told me that you can’t chase the market, it never works; you should put work out there that reflects your strengths and passion, not what you think people want.

Some photographers make this look easy. Mark Katzman has said that even if a shot is great, if it doesn’t fit into the look he’s promoting, he doesn’t use it. Go through his website and you’ll see that he’s done a great job of editing his substantial body of work into a consistent statement about what he does and what he wants to do.

Then look at Nadav Kander’s website. There’s a prevailing aesthetic, but several styles. He doesn’t worry about maintaining a strictly consistent look, but I think it works. He does so many things well — landscapes, portraits, abstract images, documentary images — that it would probably be counterproductive, if not impossible, to more narrowly focus it.

Katzman’s site projects a more commercial approach; Kander’s is just as overtly artful. I think both are true to their owners’ vision, because when I look through their sites, I am not confused about what they do.  They’ve both done a good job of showing potential clients what they as photographers want to shoot.

…but it really it comes down to this: do my website and portfolio reflect my skills, interests, and vision, or do they reflect my insecurities?

Earlier in my career, I tried a scattershot approach and included work in my book I wasn’t that interested in, but knew was in demand. I was afraid to show the work I really wanted to do because I feared it wouldn’t attract assignments. But the fact is that all bases can’t be covered. It has always been true but now, more than ever, successful photographers are specialists, not generalists. An art buyer must believe a photographer has great depth of experience in the desired type of work.


Or should it focus on your commerce?

I now consider carefully what my portfolio says about me and what I want it to say. I continue to work on trusting that the work I care about will find an audience.

And I don’t always edit my portfolio alone. Finding someone I can trust to help edit my work is invaluable. They won’t know how hard an image was to get, they’ll only see it for what it is, and they don’t have my emotional baggage in their way. I’ve asked for help at times from other photographers, my reps, consultants and art directors. I’m not always comfortable with their judgment but I have to remember that my discomfort doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

Ultimately the decision comes down to me, of course. There’s no outsourcing the difficult, personal effort required.

My editing philosophy today is: each image must be artful, interesting, and look like it belongs with the others, as well as be work I’d want to get up early in the morning to do. I’ve gone through my portfolio and made choices with that in mind. I’ll let you be the judge — did I listen to my aspirations, or my fears?

About Harold Lee Miller
Harold Lee Miller has a journalism degree from the University of Arkansas. He worked as a newspaper and magazine writer and editor for 10 years before opening an advertising photography studio in 1989.

His interest in photography began in 1972, when he was invited into his high school’s darkroom, and first saw black-and-white photographic prints developing in a tray. The magical quality of that process hooked him, and he began taking photographs at first just to have something to develop, but over time became attracted to the possibilities of creating perfection within a frame – images that were carefully composed, exposed, and presented, which is another way of saying, gaining control over a small part of his world.

Since that time, Miller has struggled to reconcile his need to make a living shooting photographs for assignment, and his need to create images that are entirely his own. The struggle continues daily.

On set for Scott bath tissue

Secret-Swap_0097-2_fHere’s one of the images we did for Kimberly-Clark with agency Tri3ect — worked with senior writer Kurt Warner and senior producer Steven Anderson to create a bathroom set for Scott’s Secret Swap campaign.  Monica Zaffarano produced the shoot, Sage Reed propped it and handled the set.

photo2Here we are during the shoot — that’s Lisa Button, my Chicago rep, in the red sweater, and Monica right behind her.