Reputations: Garry Fabian Miller
‘I decided photography had to be colour when I was sixteen years old … The materials were difficult, but Cibachrome has this incredible colour saturation and permanence.’ Interview by Grant Gibson. Portrait by Philip Sayer. [EXTRACT]
Garry Fabian Miller is a singular fine art photographer, who has established a reputation over nearly four decades making extraordinary photographic prints without a camera. He created them in his darkroom using just light and Cibachrome, a dye-destruction paper, and exposures that could last between one and twenty hours.
He was born in Bristol in 1957, the son of a professional photographer. He started taking socially engaged portraits while still a teenager; in 1974 he made a study of the Shetlands community, followed by the series ‘Sections of England: The Sea Horizon’ in 1976. His first solo exhibition was at Bristol’s Arnolfini Gallery in 1979. He moved to remote Lincolnshire in 1980 and began exploring ‘camera-less’ photography a few years later. Since 1989 he has lived and worked in Dartmoor, Devon, and his work has been exhibited widely – to great art-world acclaim. Miller’s photographs are held in many collections, including those of the Bibliothèque nationale, Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum …
Left. Colour Seed 08, 2001. Right. Colour Seed 09, 2001. Top. Portrait of Garry Fabian Miller by Philip Sayer.
Grant Gibson: Can we start by talking about your honorary fellowship with the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford? How did that come about and what does it entail?
Garry Fabian Miller: Richard Ovenden, who is Librarian at the Bodleian, approached me for a picture in aid of a fund-raising auction to acquire the Fox Talbot archive. We met at breakfast when I was in Oxford doing a performance event with the poet Alice Oswald. It transpires he had a passion for photography as a teenager – he wanted to be a photographer but lost confidence and trained to become a librarian instead. We ended up going for an hour-long walk after breakfast. He led me through the Bodleian and showed me where we could have a darkroom and where I could show films. Then he took me upstairs and pointed out the rooms that the fellows have and told me I could have one. In the space of 80 minutes, we’d gone from meeting to [my] being offered an honorary fellowship to explore the darkroom and photography …
In the Green Darkness, Stars Bled, 2021.
Grant Gibson, design writer, editor and host of Material Matters, London
Read the full version in Eye no. 103 vol. 26, 2021
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