An Exclusive Interview with Thaddeus Miles

Thaddeus Miles envisions sustainable cities. As Director of Public Safety at MassHousing he works with law enforcement and diverse communities throughout Massachusetts confronting the complexities of crime and trauma. He has a long track record, a strong commitment to empowering people and strengthening youth voice, and vision.

Mr. Miles garnered insights and strategies from his international work at Harvard Law School and Community/Urban planning programs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have reinforced his steadfast commitment to ensuring that the most underserved members of our community have genuine opportunities for success and achievement.

He founded the MassIMPACT technology consortium, and co-founded the Neighborhood Network National Consortium. He serves on many nonprofit boards throughout the Commonwealth. His newest partnership “Think Big Dream Big” is a youth driven initiative to jumpstart young people on the journey to a positive future, the fulfillment of their goals, and dreams.

Mr. Miles is also an animator and photographer. This led him to become the Board President of Peace in Focus: a global non-profit organization that trains youth from underserved and post-conflict communities to be creative peace builders and leaders using photography and grassroots media tools. His immersion in his latest photography projects: “365 a photo a Day in 2012,” and “The African American Church” has strengthened his artistic vision, and illuminated the four pillars of his identity that provide the frame and structure for his photographic journey (Faith/Spirit, Family/Ancestry, Nature/Landscape and People/Community).

In this “Exclusive Interview” section, today we have the opportunity to talk with Thaddeus Miles, as his photograph was winner of Photo of the Month – 23rd Month, 3rd Place. Let’s discover more about Mr. Miles, and his forays into photography in the following interview with him.

An Exclusive Interview with Thaddeus Miles

Light & Composition: Hello, Thaddeus Miles. How does it feel, being selected as the winner of Photo of the Month, 3rd Place, April 2012?

Thaddeus Miles: I feel happy. That seems to over simplify….hmmm. It’s exciting! I feel proud and privileged- especially when I look at the other photographers who are also included in the contest. There is so much talent, so to be compared to photographers who have more experience and might even have been in more unique locations. This is a unique and special opportunity for me to share my vision. This magazine is so prestigious and this honor gives me the courage to want to continue to grow and perfect my photography. I also, think the fact that this is an un-touched photograph raised the bar for my own ongoing expectations of my work.

L&C: The photograph, “Parasol”, which was selected as Photo of the Month, is a beautiful Close-up photograph with an artistic perspective, correct lighting, and very well presented. Overall, this is a great composition! Tell us more about your experience of taking this photograph.
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Mr. Miles: I was in the butterfly palace chasing them around trying to enjoy the day and to refocus on my photography. Somehow I was distracted by this tiny delicate flower. The light had yet to hit it enough to highlight all of its features so I decided to wait. But I kept going back to it every 15 minutes or so to check the lighting. After about an hour and a half I decided it was where I wanted it to be for the camera and lense. I was able to capture what I saw at that first glance; the vibrancy and blending of color on something as small as a match.

Parasol, by Thaddeus Miles

Parasol, by Thaddeus Miles

L&C: Besides this winning photograph, many people liked several others of your photographs. You must be proud. How do you see your journey to the world of photography so far?

Mr. Miles: Definitely proud. Seeing it as a learning experience. The strongest sensation, I have is the increase in courage that I have found that even allowed me to enter the contest and receive the critical feedback alongside the amazing level of engagement from folks who are also embracing my photographs with recognition of some of the same things I see when I am taking the picture. The hardest part is the challenge of making selections and being forced to walk away from editing.

L&C: As we know, you are originally from Massachusetts, which has its own rich diverse cultural and artistic heritage. Do you think depicting life in Massachusetts portrays a different essence? How much does that influence your work?

Mr. Miles: Actually, I am not from Massachusetts, I am originally from Virginia Beach but have lived in Massachusetts for the past 25 years. The ability to study, engage and work with multiple disciplines within the art culture is a unique opportunity afforded to a photographer in Massachusetts. I also have the opportunity to shoot a broad range of cultural identities which allows me to continue to search for the one area of photography that I want to be able to immerse myself in at some point in time.

L&C: We see so many different genres of photography in your portfolio. Do 
you like a particular genre of photography?

Mr. Miles: The 365 project that I am currently engaged in is allowing me to explore every aspect of genres. Before that I spent a lot of time in florals and landscapes. Now, I am branching out to streets and candid photos. More than anything I am learning what I don’t like to photograph. For example, I am not excited by studio photography or anything that is set up. I really enjoy being out with nature or humanity in an organic environment where light and movement aren’t within my own design.

L&C: One of the keys to any style of photography is visualization. Please tell us how you started this process and what you did afterwards.

Mr. Miles: The key to any visualization for me is the taking the time to visit a space before I actually shoot. I often go (even at times with my camera) and approach the location as if I wasn’t even going to shoot at all. I like to study the scenery, the people, the air-whatever it is that has driven me to take the time out of my life to stop and consider it as a photography location. Then, I focus on capturing what I’ve seen- not necessarily what everyone else sees. I will go back several times before I start to shoot. Just giving thanks to the space for what it has to offer.

L&C: Mr. Miles, have you ever exhibited your work? If so, then tell us about
your first exhibiting experience.

Mr. Miles: I have had two exhibits: one in Lowell Massachusetts “The Loading Dock Gallery” and one in Boston Massachusetts “united South End Settlements Gallery”. In Lowell, I showed my early florals in conjunction with an artist whose medium was pastel. All of our work was in large prints. I recall my main emotion being thankful that so many friends (a few hundred) came out to support the show. It was a lot of work and I experienced a great deal of fear. My friend Maxine believed in me enough to showcase my work for the first time in an artist community where she had hundreds of other choices to highlight. My second exhibit was a combination of myself and an organization “Peace in Focus” that teaches youth about photography. We examined peace through their lens and helped them illustrate to hundreds of people how photography can be a powerful tool for communication of experience.

L&C: Are you involved with any photography organizations? How does this help you in your photography?

Mr. Miles: I am involved in Peace in Focus – a global non-profit organization – trains youth from underserved and post-conflict communities to be creative peace builders and leaders using photography and grassroots media tools. I am also involved with the Boston Photography Center; a Meet Up group with a few hundred members. This has been an amazing opportunity to both learn from more experienced photographers as well as teach those who are less experienced what I have learned. More recently, I have started a youth driven movement that finds young people who are intent on expanding their leadership skills through an internship that is allowing me to teach both the basic elements of photography as well as how to define your own narrative when using the lens and the subject.

L&C: What advice would you give our readers who want to take part in the journey around the world with Photo of the Day?

Mr. Miles: Believe in yourself. Believe in your photography. Take every day to learn about the art form. Continue to look at the amazing photos that others post daily and to read as much as possible for promising practices shared by other photographers. Ask questions. Take criticism. Do not get deterred and know that your photo is beautiful.

L&C: Thank you for sharing your feelings and experiences with us Mr. Miles.

Mr. Miles: Thank you Light & Composition. It makes me feel proud and privileged.

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Carol J Thompson
Carol J Thompson
9 years ago

Great interview. Very good advice given.