Sivan Miller, the photography talent discovered by Oprah Winfrey at 16
You'd think that having your photography noticed by Oprah Winfrey would mark the peak of someone's career. However, Cape Town-based photographer Sivan Miller has not lost his momentum. A little more than five years after the initial discovery, Sivan's photography has been featured in GQ magazine and his clients include Zara and Red Bull. In addition, he has photographed for the most glamorous and prestigious events including the Oscars and New York Fashion Week. To sum up, Sivan Miller (and his camera) are going places, and I am lucky to have had a conversation with him on his way up.
You were discovered by Oprah at 16 years old, how did this happen and how did it affect your career?
Photography started out as a hobby. I was taking landscape photos every day and made a website on Flickr where I would upload images of Capetown. Oprah was looking for images to publish from Capetown, and when she saw my pictures, she got in touch with me. At the time it did not have that big of an impact on me as I was still in school, but now it definitely helped.
How did you get interested in photography at such a young age?
My mom travelled to the East and when she came back she got me my first digital camera. It was very standard, but it instantly got me hooked on taking pictures. So thank you mom for putting that camera in my hands!
What do you see as the meaning behind your photography?
It's more than just a camera taking pictures, it's about connecting people. You really have to form a link with the person you're taking pictures of. So most of the time in photography, the camera is down and I'm trying to get to know someone. It's almost a gift that I have that lets me connect with people even if I can't speak with them. I get this type of feeling with each person I work with and I build this connection into the photography.
What makes for a great picture?
For my photos, they're based on people. So it's really important that there's some sort of emotion when people look at the photo. Obviously that's difficult to do for landscape but when working with models I really try to capture their emotions and bring it out in the picture.
What has been one of your most memorable shoots so far?
In Feburary, I was shooting in Times Square for the Wilhelmina Agency. That was really special as it had always been a dream of mine to shoot in Times Square
What camera are you using at the moment?
Day-to-day I love using the Canon 5DS. Obviously the Hasseblad cameras are quite fancy, but those are more for billboard campaigns.
Where do you hope to be in the next year?
I just got my Visa results and will be moving to New York in February to shoot for the next NYFW!
How was the experience of NYFW?
I went last February, it was amazing. It truly is any fashion photographer's dream.
What would you change about the fashion industry today?
I can only speak for Cape Town, as it is different for every city. But the problem is that people in power need to be more open to new ideas and people. In New York, they are much more accepting of people and look up to young people, instead of down. Most of the people that become stars, start out young. People in power can see the talent and help them. That's the difference with Cape Town. Young people aren't given as much as a chance. I found an agency in New York, and although it was tough, it was still a lot easier than finding one in Capetown and with the amount of competition and talent in New York, it should have been much harder! People should just be more open to young talent and give them a chance.