New exhibit spotlights Laney student Adrienne Miller’s globe-trotting photographyLaney College student Adrienne Miller’s brilliant portrait photos from Siberia and the Far East are on display through May 20 in the Laney Photography Department in A-185.
Miller is from Burbank, north of Los Angeles. So why did she travel the world and photograph humanity so far from home?
“I think definitely in my twenties I was restless, and I think that I did not love Los Angeles,” Miller said. “I was trying to find my own sense of home. I traveled far and wide to find what home felt like for me.”
Miller is an environmental engineer, meaning she studies and works to improve the quality of land, air, and water. Environmental engineers investigate suspect contaminants and the effects of those contaminants on the environment.
While traveling as an engineer, Miller found herself on the Trans Siberian Railroad.
“At the time I was living in Stockholm as a guest researcher,” she said.
“I wanted to travel from Stockholm, Sweden, to Hong Kong. While traveling across that entire time the landscapes changed.”
Although Miller sometimes found herself travelling alone, she was never too far from a friendly face.
“One time I was in India, and my long skirt got stuck on a horse-drawn carriage—it nearly tore off,” she said, explaining what happened during a solo voyage across Asia.
“Nearby, there was a woman, she grabbed me and guided me into her home. Then without exchanging words she hand-sewed my skirt and I thanked her and could be back on my way.
“This was necessary as I could not travel without being covered. We didn’t speak the same language but it did not matter.”
Miller met an astonishing variety of people like that women on her journey, yet she “came away with the message everyone was fundamentally the same. It had a very lasting impact on me.”
“I remember the day when we went shopping for the camera, a Nikon F-2 with a 50mm Prime lens,” she said, beaming about her choice of camera. “Non-digital, of course.” Some of the photos in the Laney exhibit were actually taken by that same camera.
Her beloved camera wasn’t her only source of inspiration. “My biggest life influence was Rachel Carson, a scientist and writer,” Miller said. Carson wrote ‘Silent Spring,’ an influential book.
“Carson was influential on banning the pesticide DDT, because she was able to interpret the natural world for the general public to understand.”
Another inspiration was the photographer Gracele Iturdide. “She took lots of photos of queer and minority cultures,” she said. “She is more of a documentarian and environmental portraiture photographer… I love her.”
But maybe the largest sources of inspiration are her subjects: women of the world.
Miller has no trouble choosing what to shoot.
“I’m more naturally drawn to women. I think it is because there are so many images of women that are sexualized, romanticized, and objectified,” she said. “The opportunity to get a positive interaction with my photos is why I do this.”
Miller chose photography as her tool to express her art because “it came most naturally to me. Both my brothers are artists, my dad is an artist and my mom is a nurse. The aspect of photography does not scare me; it is intuitive.”
Her favorite photo in the Laney exhibit is “City and Country Family.”
The black-and-white photo seems timeless except for the contemporary clothing of one subject. Miller favors the element of contrast the garments have in this photo.
Her next project will be what she had wanted to exhibit this time.
“I actually wanted do protest art theme this time,” she said. “I photograph Occupy, the D.C. women’s march, [and] any peaceful activism I want to photograph.”
Miller is a Laney Tower photographer, and her coverage of the recent Oakland Women’s March ran in the Feb. 2 issue.
“I am an activist and feminist,” she declares, “two things that are part of my personality.”
Adrienne Miller stands beside an exhibit featuring her work in the Laney College Photography Department in A-185. The exhibit features photographs of her travels through Siberia and the Far East, and will be on display through May 20. Miller’s work focuses on the women she encounters on her travels. Miller is also a Laney Tower photographer, covering events like the 2016 Olympics and the recent Oakland Women’s March.