Richard Miller: Over the Long Run
Vintage Carbro Prints, The Hollywood Freeway and L.A. in B/W
In the summer of 2009, Richard C. Miller’s photographic career was given long overdue recognition in the form of an exhibition at the Getty Museum. As a practitioner of the early color process known as carbro printing, Miller’s work was positioned adjacent to an exhibit of one of the masters of that technique, Paul Outerbridge. A difficult and time-consuming process requiring the layering of cyan, magenta and yellow pigment separations, carbro printing was exploited by Outerbridge and Miller for both commercial and fine art applications. In fact, a career breakthrough occurred for Miller in 1941 when he submitted to the Saturday Evening Post a carbro print of his daughter Linda praying at the Thanksgiving table and peaking at the turkey. It was one of the first color photographs to displace Norman Rockwell on the magazine’s covers. Miller’s color work included nudes, still-lifes, a 1940s series of women in wildly colorful, feathery, and fruit-laden hats, as well as dozens of images of a young model named Norma Jeane Dougherty who later became Marilyn Monroe.
Miller’s black and white work was equally significant and in some ways, ahead of its time. From 1948-1953 he photographed the building of the Hollywood Freeway, not on assignment or for other commercial purposes, but because he was in awe of its monumentality. As he said, “…this is how the people must have felt when they first saw cathedrals in Europe…the first day the four-level opened, I drove around and around just to experience it.” Writing about this body of work, the author Judith Freeman noted that, “no one was making pictures like these back then, and no one would have appreciated them at the time. It took another 30 years for other people to start looking at the urban landscape for their subject matter. In Miller’s photographs we find the precursor to the work of the New Topographic photographers Lewis Baltz, Robert Adams and Joe Deal.”
In addition to his carbro work and Hollywood Freeway photos, the exhibition at Craig Krull gallery will include a trove of pictures from the 1930s-50s of Los Angeles at night, the city’s grand boulevards, self-portraits boxing, the Good Humor Man, beaches, parking lots, gas stations, Steinbeckian views of the Central Valley, James Dean on and off the set of Giant, a selection of striking portraits including some of his best friend Brett Weston, costume parties at Edward Weston’s Wildcat Hill, pictures made while driving, the dunes at Oceano, and aviation photos made while working at North American.