Writer Richard Woodward coined the phrase “Fearless Naturalism” – a belief that by looking patiently at what others ignore or look away from, interesting things can be seen. The ability to see beauty in the seemingly mundane is what sets Callie Mills’ photography apart from the glut of digital images all over the Internet. Here we present an up-and-coming photographer with a fine eye for composition, color and vintage cars.
Born in the farmlands of Wisconsin in America’s Midwest, Callie Mills moved to LA five years ago. Having grown up surrounded by cows and cornfields she found herself in the rather unfamiliar setting of the San Fernando Valley. In an effort to explore her new home she spent most of her free time walking around the local neighborhoods with her Leica V-Lux, taking photos of the things that caught her eye.
At high school she had enrolled in a photography class where she learnt to develop her own films and later she went on to study television and film at college. She remembers this time as a starting point for her endeavors into visual arts but that is where her formal education ended. The 27 year old still considers herself a novice and for all intents and purposes she is, yet her photographs reveal a rare talent.
Mills is self-taught and refreshingly humble, naming Stephen Shore and William Eggleston as her biggest influences. It is not hard to see the similarity between her everyday scenes and Shore’s on-the-road shots from the 70s, which also featured in his later publication “Uncommon Places”. The absence of people and the simple composition of her photos create a sense of serenity, a kind of melancholy as she calls it, which borders on nostalgia and it is perhaps exactly this, which reminds one of Shore’s first color work.
“These are things that I would have just walked by in the past and never even thought were worthy of a picture but, with color and composition in mind, I started looking at them in a different way.”
Mills says that she is drawn to empty spaces. The absence of material allows her to focus instead on shapes, shadows and color. Despite their seemingly lifeless nature, her photos are not lacking in impact. By color blocking the complementary red wing of a classic car with the dark green of a palm tree behind it, she creates a clear, vibrant image. By abstracting and reducing objects, surfaces and shadows to mere shapes, Mills’ photos often end up resembling Cubist compositions.
William Eggleston was one of the first voices championing color photography as a legitimate art form. He understood the power of color, as can be seen in his famous photo “Red Ceiling” and Mills appears to share this appreciation.
“Color is one of my biggest considerations when taking photos. Red cars are some of my favorite subjects. They’re just so striking.”
Striking colors are what the Leica V-Lux sensor was made for and the large display allows Mills to judge the perfect composition of her shots. LA also seems to be the perfect place for her, with its abundance of vintage cars, which remain rust-free due to the dry weather. Not to forget the derelict spaces she discovers on her precious lunch breaks and the ever-obliging rays of the Californian sun.
“I love to shoot around midday when everything is brightly lit.”