Photos courtesy of Joey Miller
The art of Joey Miller is born from a mixture of light, shadow and a charming eccentricity unique to the 36-year-old photographer and camera lens technician.
This New Orleans native uses high-speed instant film to produce striking, high contrast photos that highlight the darker side of Memphis and the MidSouth. He’s had an interest in photography since a choir trip to the picturesque St. Petersberg, Joey’s latest project was born from scarcity.
“Back in November of 2013, I got really into shooting this film — FUJIFILM FP-3000B — it’s an instant film that’s perfect for low-light and nighttime shooting,” he says. “Of course, a week or so after falling in love with the film, I find out it’s being discontinued.”
As cases of FP-3000B film began to climb in value, he decided to send his new favorite film format out in style with a 365 day journey composed of haunting black and white prints. He began documenting his journey on New Year’s Day 2014 with a photo of friend shot at Beale Street Landing, a favorite spot for local photographers.
Crafting a nightly shot required a setting and a subject for Joey, the latter of which didn’t always come easy.
“People can be unreliable,” he says. “That kind of led to me being my own subject in a lot of these.”
Because every day presents a different subject, the depth of the project shines. No two captures are alike, but most focus on everyday urban life: traffic, local landmarks, pedestrians, friends and the unexpected. “I love shooting abandoned buildings, as well as places and heights I probably shouldn’t be at,” he says.
Nearly every photo in the series was taken at night, a decision that set the tone for a series espouses the unfamiliar, overwhelming night and not being afraid of the dark. And the unfamiliar is just what Joey found himself confronting several weeks into the project. “Once you get into shooting a picture a day, you eventually run out of familiar places,” he says. Long drives after work eventually became midnight strolls in some of the seedier areas in Memphis, with Miller seeking the elusive exposure well into the wee hours of the night. “A friend of mine put it best when he told me ‘No matter where you go in the city, that’s someone’s home.’ They’re not afraid to be there, so why should I be?”
While he works with high-tech camera equipment daily at his job, the equipment Joey uses for his 365 project is dated, to say the least, including a timer he describes as a “German-clockwork thing that’s probably 60 years old.”
“In the digital world, gear doesn’t really matter these days — you can do whatever you want with pretty much anything — but the appeal of this old analog camera, there’s definitely a romance to it,“ he says. “There’s something about the sound of the peel, the smell of the chemicals. And the lenses have a specific look, too, something I can’t duplicate. It’s just the right tool for the job.”