Stepping out into the world: Mary Miller is Valley's 'Best Photographer'

A self-portait of Mary Miller, voted best photographer by Record readers. - Courtesy photo
A self-portait of Mary Miller, voted best photographer by Record readers.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

You’ve probably seen her at many local events, but didn’t recognize her behind a camera. A North Bend resident for 20 years, Mary Miller loves photographing the Valley and its residents, and has recently written her first in a series of books, capturing the images of the area.

Miller is the owner and operator of Mary Miller Photography, with a studio in ZO home, downtown North Bend, and she is the Valley’s choice for Best Photographer.

What’s your backstory?

I moved into the Valley in 1992 to start our family. I fell in love with the area, its beauty, and the variety of people I met from all walks of life.  I love the Valley communities and the uniqueness of each town and its people within such a diverse region.

How did you get your start in photos?

I began as a student at Michigan State University, 32 years ago, working as a staff photographer for a 45,000-circulation daily publication. I was Photo Editor as a senior and then shot for the Lansing State Journal.

The experience of stepping out into the world with the camera as my tool, changed me forever... Afterwards, it was off to Los Angeles and freelancing for years, from architectural imagery to portraiture.

What is your favorite subject matter to photograph?

I have long said, “all people, places, things I love.” This is part of the reason why I enjoy freelancing. But, I do love the challenge of a subject that stretches me in a direction I never saw coming. Sometimes, as professionals, we can’t control all the elements, but I continue to endlessly hone my skills to roll with the moment, and the atmosphere around me.

I recently met Annie Liebovitz, probably the most influential female photographer of my generation, while in Seattle at her book-signing. She inspired me … Although, I have had the opportunity to photograph people of fame and notoriety through the years, she was a ‘mentor’ as far back as my childhood . . .

It is how I hope to relate to people that has grown deeper with maturity and time in the art. It is that part of the art that is compelling and partly the reason why I feel more passionate than ever about doing what I do, the way I am able to do it.

Photography has changed so much through the years but you have to find your own way to relate with your subject, releasing judgment,  creating ultimately your own style, no matter who or what it may be. I love my career and I believe you can create your happiness, personally and professionally.

How does it feel to be chosen the best by your community?

It is a complete privilege and honor to be selected by the community. I see the world around me with a joyous eye. Working each and every day with integrity, and respect is important to me. I am community-driven, a relationship-nurturing embracer of positivity and supportiveness in other businesses, ultimately celebrating all our successes. What a huge gift to hold to, and I am so grateful.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I worked as a forensic photographer for the East Lansing Police Department while in college. That one job made me see that humor can be used to relieve stress to all those around, even the photographer. I laugh as often and as hard as I work to this day!


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