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  • “This shot was part of a full story. It was a cinematic feeling shot, which pulled the story together, showing this young girl running free away from home.”  
  • “This is a picture of my good model friend, Levi Lomey. He is currently working in London. I shot this through my glasses, which made it look super interesting.”  
  • “This photo is an image I shot for myself. There is a bigger story around it. The stylist brought this diamond mouthpiece, which I loved. We had to shoot it!”   
  • “This image, I shot in London last year for NEXT models. She was a new model and we walked around the streets and shot. It was an amazing day not to be forgotten.”   
  • “I created this image in Cape Town, in the busy heart of town. It was a reporter story and I used these pieces of paper and five assistants to get the shot that I saw in my head.”    

10/07/14 Fashion Photographer Sivan Miller

To pursue their art, most budding photographers get the validation they need from an audience or mentor. At 16, Sivan Miller had assisted two professional photographers who wound up rejecting him as competition. It didn’t matter—the Capetown-based shutterbug would soon get a nod from a higher power: Oprah Winfrey.

The media deity had found Miller’s work on Flickr, where he shared photos he took on the daily. Six years after his photos were published in a double-page spread for O Magazine, the wunderkind photographer has won numerous awards and shot for publications like GQ, as well as commercial clients Zara and Topshop.

With his lens set upon fashion photography, Miller’s work has developed a knack for rendering beautiful things malleable enough to accommodate a little humanity. From a lush sweep of hair to an intense stare captured, his photos have a penchant for dramatizing rather than just communicating clothing.

After shooting a campaign here and an editorial there, Miller talks to NOUS about attracting Lady O, his radar for otherworldly models, and how sometimes, it takes five assistants to get the shot.

Hi Sivan! Where has your job taken you lately?

At the moment, I am in Cape Town, South Africa. Some of my recent jobs include a new country-wide campaign for a company here called Due South outdoor adventures. Another great project was for GQ, shooting with supermodel Hanna Nitsche, it was an amazing experience. She flew in from Germany and we shot at an amazing house in Camps Bay. Lately, I went to London, where I shot with the Face Of Nivea.

From the time you got your first camera, how did you go about learning to shoot?

I got my camera when I was 16. I taught myself from going on Google, learning the camera, and practicing every single day of my life. My main inspirations were Annie Liebowitz and Mario Testino. Annie was self-taught. There was no mentor or person who showed me the ropes in the industry. I assisted two photographers literally for a few days before they said to me that I can’t be on set due to me being their competition, and from that day, I knew I would have to do this all by myself If I wanted to be a professional fashion photographer. No one in this industry opens up, It takes hard work and dedication to get anywhere.

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You were published in O Magazine at 16. How did that milestone come about? 

I had my pictures on a free website called Flickr, where every day after school, I would go out, take images, and upload them. One day I got an e-mail from her saying she wants to feature me in her magazine. I still do not know how she found me, but maybe it was due to my images being tagged for Africa and she obviously was looking for something specific. I called my parents into my room and they handled it from there since i was so young. It was a great way for the universe to say, “You can do this if you wish.”

Are there certain elements you try to communicate through your photographs? I’ve noticed a lot of physicality—is that one of them?

Yes, I always strive for a mood, usually sexy and very human. I use emotion in my images to trigger the human when they look at them. I need to get a reaction on all my images.

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Do ideas emerge when you see the face of a new model? 

When I see a girl that I know I can work with, I always go and approach them and hopefully do a project with them. I look for the more alien-looking human. It’s weirdly attractive. It takes a specific eye I have to see this. Most people can’t see “this” whereas the high-end magazines like Vogue seek this look. It is the ultimate look for a photographer.

You’re going all-out in fashion photography now—is this something you always planned to venture into?

My main aspect is the lighting. I love making images cinematic and creating a mood. Fashion gives me this opportunity to work with another person and interesting garments, which I love playing with, as well as creating moods to fit the purpose. I do a lot of shoots for myself, where I do my own ideas and go super creative. I am always looking at daily editorials around the world and taking inspiration in. I wish to shoot for Vogue one day.