Roland Miller

(b.1958; resides Grayslake, IL)

In 2003 Roland Miller began the series Real West, photographing primarily in Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. As the ongoing project develops, Miller continues to examine changing ways of life in the West and the evolving role played by cultural myths and romanticized western iconography, such as cowboys, Indians, and pioneer wagons. In his more recent work, however, represented by 15 new images in the Midwest Photographers Project, Miller is increasingly drawn to reflect on the specific social and political issues that are affecting the region today. He observes that topics such as immigration, treatment of Native Americans, mining, and land-use all have their roots in an idealized view of the West.

A Chicago native, Miller studied photography at Utah State University (BA, 1980, MFA, 1983). His work has been featured in Smithsonian Air and Space Magazine, Florida Today, and Kodak's Photo Educator International, among others. Miller is the Dean of Communication Arts, Humanities and Fine Arts at the College of Lake County, Grayslake, IL. In the past decade he has also been a guest artist at Casper College, Wyoming; Pensacola Junior College, Florida; Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, Florida; and Minnesota State University, Moorhead.

Bank of America, Tombstone, AZ, 2008Bank of America, Tombstone, AZ, 2008
Road Closed, Milford, NE, 2006Road Closed, Milford, NE, 2006

Past Portfolio

The title for this project is a reference to the obvious fact that there is no real West, but an idealized view. By juxtaposing romanticized western iconography and themes with contemporary western scenarios, I’m attempting to disassemble this idealized view.  - Roland Miller

Painted cowboys, mounted deer, and the idyllic landscapes in the background of beer advertisements populate the pictures of Roland Miller’s Real West series. Such romantic tokens stand in ironic contrast to the modern day sites where they are trafficked, much less the historic West they would hope to reference. The urge to perpetuate the myths of the West - from grand vistas to stock characters - looks to be nearly irresistible as murals, merchandise, and signage persistently condense the history and culture of the American West into the decorative and consumable.

Past Portfolio

In Roland Miller’s series, Abandoned in Place, Miller explores the American space-launch and research facilities that played a crucial role in the early days of space exploration. Now abandoned, the buildings have been left to decay, for they are too expensive to restore and maintain. Miller’s project attempts to preserve these buildings in an artistic manner, combining documentary and abstract approaches to the subject.

Museum of Contemporary Photography

at Columbia College Chicago
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Chicago, IL 60605

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