Collection Spotlight

Two Nebraska chapter members of the American Veteran's Motorcycle Club one with back towards camera - the second, bearded in trucker cap faces the viewer. Both wear leather motorcycle vests.Joe “J.T.” Timms and James “Jimbo” Faulkner, Columbus, NC
Sandro Miller (American b. 1958)

Photographer Sandro Miller, Sandro professionally, balances a career in commercial and fine art photography with recognized national advertising campaigns including Adidas, Anheuser-Bush, BMW, Coca-Cola, Gatorade, Nike, Nikon, UPS, and the US Army. Sandro is famously known for his collaboration with actor and performer John Malkovich. Their homage to photographic masters Diane Arbus, Arnold Newman, Irving Penn, Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lange, Bert Stern and others recreates their iconic portraits with Malkovich assuming the role of the subjects in Sandro’s pastiche.

Sandro, while not formally trained, relied on the inspiration of other artists to guide his photographic eye which is why the Malkovich homage was so important to him. “I didn’t want it to be a parody or something funny”1 Instead, Sandro viewed these images as a serious exploration of artists who were crucial to his own artistic development. “My education in photography was very much a self-taught process of picking up books and becoming so in love with the images.”2 Sandro’s career and photographs are inspired by the portraits of Irving Penn and he recalled how the images influenced his work in an interview, “His portraits are so powerful: they make you want to know more about that person, what is going on in his life, Penn’s portraits make you get really involved."3

Likewise, Sandro’s portraits are intimate and engaging. The subjects here, two Nebraska chapter members of the American Veteran’s Motorcycle Club, occupy their space – filling the frame in a powerful yet relaxed way. One subject turns away from the camera but presents his biker emblems to the viewer while the second subject engages the camera through his direct gaze. Like Penn’s portraits, this image by Sandro is compelling – inviting the viewer to be curious about the subjects, their friendship, and character. Sandro’s interest in biker imagery happened in the 1990s after encountering a biker rally raising funds for a children’s charity.4 The portrait series explores the dichotomy between the intimate humanity of the subjects captured with the gruff exterior and outsider views of bikers.

Sandro’s portrait series range from American bikers, Cuban Olympic athletes, Moroccan nomadic peoples, to cancer survivors after battling throat cancer himself. “My career is around photographing people and photographing people brings out a lot of feelings and emotions in them. I love to work with people; I feel very comfortable and I make them feel very comfortable too. And when they are that comfortable and that free, they open up and give you their little secret, their little magic something."5

Photographs by Sandro are currently on view at the Art Museum in the exhibition, Exploring Aspects of War In and Through the Visual Arts which runs through October 18, 2019.


  1. Ira Veles. “Sandro Miller: ‘I Didn’t Want It to Be A Parody or Something Funny.’” Bird in Flight. December 14, 2014. Accessed online July 18, 2019: https://birdinflight.com/inspiration/experience/sandro-miller-i-didnt-want-it-to-be-a-parody.html.
  2. Christopher Quyen. “Homage to Sandro Miller.” Capture Magazine, September 12, 2018. Accessed on July 18, 2019: www.capturemag.com.au/profiles/homage-to-sandro-miller.
  3. Ira Veles. “Sandro Miller: ‘I Didn’t Want It to Be A Parody or Something Funny.’” Bird in Flight. December 14, 2014. Accessed online July 18, 2019: https://birdinflight.com/inspiration/experience/sandro-miller-i-didnt-want-it-to-be-a-parody.html.
  4. “Sandro Miller’s ‘American Bikers’ Photography Series Captures Softer Side of Rebel Subculture (NSFW, PHOTOS).” Huffpost. October 15, 2012. Accessed online July 31, 2019: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sandro-millers-american-bikers_n_1966711?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAKUcs0gn16sQC-ox-3PTEMPdkMEpOAtwe71bXi2zE-AGmobqd5yP4WmlF8ZMkU_XzkglsR9RoRTDm6GWZ-nxUc6kp1aSg09xBdhjSCKAzB6h7oDOM-LRwh17gO-RRfzEXj4CTJ1hL5ob0LJBIuwMItdPVKCW0b8_yzNWNbFjltkS.
  5. Ira Veles. “Sandro Miller: ‘I Didn’t Want It to Be A Parody or Something Funny.’” Bird in Flight. December 14, 2014. Accessed online July 18, 2019: https://birdinflight.com/inspiration/experience/sandro-miller-i-didnt-want-it-to-be-a-parody.html.

Image: Sandro Miller. Joe “J.T.” Timms and James “Jimbo” Faulkner, Columbus, NC, 1991. Silver gelatin print, (30 x 30 in.). NIU Art Museum Collection 2018.59. Gift of Alan Cohen and Susan Walsh.

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