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Diane Karas Miller

Diane Karas Miller

Conceptual Magazine:

Let’s begin by getting to know more details about you!!

Where do you live? Are you married? Children?

Diane Karas Miller:

I live in Naperville, IL which is about 30 miles west of Chicago.  I am married and we have one son, who is, gasp, 14 and a freshman in High School.

I grew up in Schaumburg, which is also a Chicago suburb and spent some time between college and having my own family living in Chicago.

On and we also have three cats.  They count as children too.  Sometimes, they are more trouble than the child.

 

CM:

Awe, that’s wonderful. Guess your son is growing up too fast huh?!

I remember you were doing a 365 photo project with your cats right?

DKM:

They grow up so fast.  It’s amazing.  And you are right, I am doing a 365 project with my cats and occasionally, a friend's cat.  They are all iPhone pictures and I am sharing them through Instagram.

CM:

Haha, yay I remembered!!! Love it.

DKM:

The Daily Cat, #dailycat is what I’m calling it, though I’m certain it’s probably not original... but it’s fun.

 

CM:

I love the name of your project!!!

Okay, since you mentioned college… where did you go to college and what did you major in?

DKM:

I went to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.  My major was Communication and my minor was Journalism.  And I’m not sure I really use either in my current life.  Maybe the communication/PR skills I learned for marketing my photography and the speaking skills at work.

CM:

Communication and Journalism. That’s very interesting.

Where do you work now? What do you do besides photography?

DKM:

Yes, I wanted to be one of those "change the world" journalists but, then the pressure with the crazy deadlines and writing brilliantly, all while under pressure was so not my thing.  So, I changed my major to Communication and specialized in Public Relations... kept the journalism as a minor.

My day job/career is in the finance world.  I am the compliance officer of an investment firm and also their subsidiary small broker dealer.  I make sure we follow the SEC rules, write policies and procedures, train employees, conduct testing, do due diligence of key vendors and am the main point of contact with regulators (how fancy that sounds).  It uses a completely different part of my brain than the photography.

 

CM:

Wow, definitely sounds fancy! Do you enjoy it?? Or is it just a day job that pays the bills?

DKM:

I enjoy it but sometimes it’s stressful.  We have a lot going on but that also means a lot of opportunities, so I’m working with it.

CM:

That’s great.

But I’m sure there can be a lot of stress.

DKM:

It is.  I also could do without the daily train commute but I do like working in Chicago.

CM:

So then, photography is your relaxation?!

Tell me, when did you first pick up a camera? What’s the story?

DKM:

Hmm… I honestly am obsessed. It is an escape and it is one activity where I truly get in that state of flow where you don’t even notice time passing.  Especially when I am editing.  But I also have a lot of goals and ambitions with my photography that I am and have been working towards so, it can sometimes get stressful too.  I can never just sort of do something for fun.  It’s all or nothing for me.

CM:

Oh, I totally understand. I think that, sometimes, when you get good at something you want to keep growing and see what your limits are!!

DKM:

I first picked up a camera that wasn't point-and-click when I was 17.  I took black and white film photography in High School.  My dad was a “rail fan”, meaning he had an unhealthy obsession with trains. LOL. He would go rail fanning, meaning hanging out by train tracks with a camera and recorder (like tapes, he’d make cassette tapes of train sounds).  Then he would develop the film and prints in the basement.  He had an enlarger, all the chemicals, the whole set up down there.  Even the red light and a pitch black place for rolling film.  So, when it came time to take an art class, I signed up for photography because I was always so fascinated with the process, and also because I couldn’t draw or paint.

 

CM:

OH WOW!!! That’s such an interesting story.  You basically grew up with it!

DKM:

Yep.  It was my dad’s hobby, well trains but the photography was part of it.

CM:

What happened after that? How did you evolve? Are you mostly self-taught?

DKM:

So, I took the film class in HS. And I took a basic film class, fine art photography, black and white, and I took a photojournalism class as well in college.  But after college, I got a job and was focused on work and other stuff.  I went years without picking up a camera that wasn’t a point and shoot, disposable for vacation photos.

Once I had my son and he started playing sports, I pulled out the camera. Mostly to photograph his football but then I started photographing the bee on the flower, then other flowers and so it started again. My fab Dad gave me his old Nikon D70 and a couple lenses and I was off. This time it stuck. I started mostly focused on nature photos and pics of my son’s sports games and then at some point after I had been on Flickr a while and opened an Etsy store I found I wanted to try some portraits.

Being a bit shy and not confident in my ability at all, I used myself as a model and learned by doing self-portraits.

CM:

And you have gotten good at it and get better each time. I’m a fan of your work. 

Do you only do self-portrait work? Do you use other models? What about portraiture? Do you do that as well?

DKM:

I do use models when I can but with a busy schedule, it can be hard to find a date.  When I use models, it’s typically people I either know or people I have been introduced to through friends. I rarely use actual models who model by profession but someday. I still do self-portraits a lot because I am always available on board with my ideas.

CM:

Self-portraits are the easiest way. It’s better because you learn quicker. It’s my opinion anyway!!

DKM:

I do not have a portrait business where I do portraits for others.  I used to do a little of that but with my full-time job, I’d rather spend my photography time creating what I want to create.  That is one of the big reasons I decided to keep the day job and not pursue full-time photography.  I didn’t want it to feel like work or feel like I had to spend time creating things that weren’t my passion in order to make money.

Self-portraits helped me learn to pose, some lighting and I can experiment with no worries that I will look like I don’t know what I’m doing.  It’s a great way to learn.

CM:

I totally understand. It’s a good way to do that. 

Yes, self-portraits are a great way to experiment. Totally agree.

Tell me about what inspires you. Where do you get your ideas?

 

DKM:

I get inspiration from a lot of things.  For example, a song inspired my last piece.  Nature is a big inspiration as is the things going on in my life, emotions I may want to convey.   I also find inspiration from a cool dress I find or other props.

CM:

What about your style? Do you take inspiration from other artists or is it uniquely yours?

DKM:

I do get inspiration from other artists.  I think my first inspiration to really start creating portraits was from Elle Moss on Etsy.  She was the featured seller and I just fell in love with her work.  I also get a lot of inspiration from Brooke Shaden, Miss Aniela, and others.  And then also from artists such as Cindy Sherman.  I could go on and on.

CM:

Oh WOW! I need to check out who Elle Moss is!!! Also, Cindy Sherman. The rest I know are amazing artists!!!

There are definitely tons of incredible artists out there!

Let’s talk photoshop. What’s your favorite tool or tools?

DKM:

Here is her shop on Etsy.  When I joined in 2009 she had pretty much only portraits, mostly or all self-portraits.  She has since expanded  I was/am on a team with her and we are friends.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/ellemoss

CM:

Oh wow, her work is awesome. I love it. Thanks for sharing!!!

DKM:

Photoshop. My favorite tools include curves and masking because I remember back when I used the eraser tool and oh boy... if you make a mistake with that and don’t catch it right away.

I also like clone a lot.

CM:

Good ones!!! Love photoshop honestly. It’s perfect for what we do. It’s like a magic wand.

DKM:

Photoshop is magic!

CM:

Okay, since you mentioned Etsy, I want to talk about that.

Tell me about it. How does it work? Is there a fee? Have you sold any work? Is it good for what we do?

DKM:

I have three shops.  My first shop I opened in 2009, The Shutterbug Eye. It has my nature photos.  I have a little over 100 sales in that shop.  That sounds great but it’s not really big money when you consider I started in 2009, It is still a place to sell my work and I’m thrilled people have purchased it. I have another shop opened in 2012, called Dark Raven Photo and it contains more black and white, macabre etc imagery.  I’ve had 20 sales there and 2 were pretty decent sized sales.  And I just recently opened my shop with my portraiture.  I have no sales and have priced it more with galleries in mind so we shall see.  It’s still a place to be seen.

It’s free to open a shop but costs 0.20 per listing.  Each listing is good for 4 months.  There is also a modest transaction fee when you make a sale.

CM:

Very good. That’s interesting. Thank you for sharing that with us!!!!

What are your goals for the future regarding photography?

DKM:

My pleasure. My big goal I’m working towards is to get into a gallery.  I have been working had on my portfolio and researching galleries.  I am attending Filter Photo Fest later this month and have signed up for portfolio reviews with five different people.  I am still waiting for my final schedule and who exactly I will meet with but they are different gallery owners.  It will be my opportunity to share my work with them and learn.

CM:

Love that. Love to hear it!!! Can’t wait to hear how it went!!!

So what is your advice to photographers out there who want to accomplish their dreams??

DKM:

Stay with it.  It may take longer than you want but set smaller goals to accomplish on the way.  And push beyond your comfort zone both in your work and in approaching opportunity.  I am nervous about these portfolio reviews.  The closer I get to it, the less I feel like I know what I’m doing or am ready but I’m learning and pulling it together and I know from experience that most steps forward, this is how I feel at the start.  You never move forward if you always stay where it feels safe.

CM:

What a perfect way to end this interview. Wonderful advice from such a wonderful artist. Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and talk with me. You are incredible!!!

 

Diane’s 411:

Website:  www.dianekmiller.com

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/theshutterbugeye

Twitter:  @DianeKMiller

Etsy:  www.etsy.com/shop/dianekmillerphoto

 

Gift of Inspiration (texture):


Jessica Drossin

Jessica Drossin

Spotlight for Inspiration - Jenna Martin

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