Expanding the Possibilities of the Photographic Medium
As one of the most forward-thinking photographers of his time, Garry Fabian Miller‘s camera-less photography expands the possibilities of the photographic medium. Working meticulously from his darkroom, Fabian Miller creates immersive, transcendent compositions that appear to glow and palpitate in place, captivating the viewer by their sheer magnitude and rich chromatic values. By physically curating light through various translucent materials, Fabian Miller’s crafted exposures attempt to capture the aura of an ancestral and mythical landscape. Fabian Miller’s evolution in photography through his exploration of time and place while using light as a medium and subject make him not only a unique and enigmatic artist but one whose work addresses central human themes of philosophical, spiritual, and mystical matters.
Growing up in a Photography Studio
Born in Bristol, England, in the late 1950s, Garry Fabian Miller’s family owned a photography studio. This studio introduced the future luminary artist to photography early and instilled in him a sense of wonder at the darkroom’s chemical development process. It is perhaps here where Fabian Miller begins to conceptualize an aesthetic for the alchemical interaction between creative art and science.
“I think the key thing is, from my early teens, I was exposed to a darkroom and what a darkroom is and the things which happen in it; the magical process of images merging into the world through your actions.”
Becoming a Channel between the Human Being and Outer Space
After studying the Shetland Islands and experiencing life at the periphery of urban society, living with the vastness of nature as the rural communities allowed, Fabian Miller realizes early on in his career that he could use photography and the experience of being in the landscape to communicate feelings and the idea of contemplation as well as natural observation. This realization becomes an artistic mantra, the potential to become a channel between the human being and outer space, creating work that transmits and reflects a deep interaction with the landscape.
“As I walked myself into the landscape, it became an experience of the skyspace, the changing weather systems, the deep-thinking space, and that is how I think the work evolved from a kind of narrative, figurative based practice around trees and plants and nature into an abstract sky, light space.”
Garry Fabian Miller’s regular, meditative walks into the Dartmoor landscape (an ancient moorland in Southwestern England), renowned as an incubator of age-old English myths and legends, provides him with the lingering impressions that inspire the visual aesthetic of his exposures. This process is perhaps one of the most consistent qualities of Fabian Miller, his symbiotic relationship to photography. In every aspect of his practice, Fabian Miller treats the medium as a meaningful and interdependent way of living life. In turn, the artist creates wholly sincere, conceptual representations of his connection to a place and a changing atmosphere.
Within a historical context, Garry Fabian Miller’s work directly connects with concepts familiar to early modern English history, that of the complex interaction between magical, religious, and scientific belief. Although the work contains an array of minimalist forms, hues, and shapes, it is inherent to the past, to a preindustrial society intrinsically connected to agriculture and the cosmos, to the land and the changing patterns of nature. Fabian Miller produces a visual testament to that which escapes simple explanation to the experiences of meditation, spirituality, and enlightenment.
“(My practice) is perhaps to do with understanding a much larger abstracted space in which an interest in nature feeds a kind of sense of well-being that comes through a relationship to the life cycle of a tree, for example, and the effect it has on the viewer in an affirmative way… the way the tree and I were sharing the same breath.
I became increasingly interested in trying to understand what the energy of light is and how through touching me, it transforms my being.”
A Chromatic Connection
Garry Fabian Miller shares a love and fascination with the beautiful chromatic qualities of visible light that connect him to artists such as James Turrell, Dan Flavin, and Rothko. His trajectory as a photographer, from detailed photograms of plant objects to crafted light exposures, is a beautiful, comprehensive path towards abstraction, resembling a clarity akin to Mondrian’s abstraction of painting and the unapologetic, resonating emotion of Malevich. In simpler terms, Garry Fabian Miller can capture the vital, universal, and intrinsic energies that live through and within us in his unique art form.
He is represented in many private and public collections including Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; Museum of Contemporary Art, Bangkok; The Gillman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Government Art Collection, London; Houston Museum of Fine Arts; Sir Elton John Collection; Museet for Fotokunst, Odense; Kasama Nichido Museum of Art, Tokyo; Norton Museum of Art, Florida; Art Gallery of South Australia, Australia; Pier Arts Centre, Stromness, Orkney; Museum Ritter, Waldenbuch; Ruppert Collection, Kulturspeicher Würzburg.
The Victoria & Albert Museum have the largest holding of his work, having collected pieces for over 30 years. In the autumn of 2018, the Museum premiered his first film, Last evenings, a reimagining of the magic lantern slide performances of the early 1800s. A collaboration with the composer and musician Oliver Coates, Last evenings is one of a new sequence of projects exploring ways of re-imagining and repurposing his darkroom exposures. Since 2014, he has also been working with Dovecot Tapestry Studios, Edinburgh on a series of rugs and a tapestry Voyage into the deepest darkest blue. In the autumn of 2020, he began a relationship with the woven fabric studio Dash and Miller, and the Bristol Weaving Mill to translate the Year One work Riuros, 2005 into a quadruple-cloth dobby woven tapestry.
Fabian Miller’s work has been the subject of several monographs, including Illumine (2005), Year One (2007), The Colour of Time (2010) and Blaze (2018). In 2017 he was awarded an honorary fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society. In 2021/22 Fabian Miller was awarded an honorary fellowship by the Bodleian Library. During this time, he will consider the central place of the darkroom in the history of chemical photography, this coinciding with the end of his darkroom at the end of fifty years.