A lot of Tibetters were taken by the beautiful picture of Laurel and Nala that’s currently gracing Laurel’s Twitter page. Soon we were told who the photographer was and were able to take a peek at her stunning portfolio. Miki Turner is not only a talented photographer, she’s an award winning-journalist, television producer, radio personality and is known to spread positive mayhem here and there, which you can read about on her Twitter account and blog. We thought it was time to know a little more about this woman behind the camera, who has been ever so gracious (and funny) with Laurel’s fans on Twitter and elsewhere.
Be prepared for an exciting, intriguing and inspiring read brought to you by the fabulous Miki Turner.
When you’re done reading make sure to follow her on Twitter and check out her portfolio: Mikiphoto.smugmug.com
J-B.com: A short introduction: Describe yourself in 5 words
Miki: Poor little suburban colored girl. One of those adjectives is actually true.
J-B.com: A lot of tibette fans know you through the beautiful picture(s) you took of Laurel and Nala. When did you become interested in photography?
Miki: I've taken pictures for as long as I can remember. I used to get cameras from my parents on all special occasions--birthdays, Christmas, graduations. My dad, who recently passed away, bought me my first Nikon and that's the brand I'm still shooting with today. It's always been very validating to take a great shot and have people respond positively. But it wasn't until I got to college that I actually studied photography. In graduate school at Boston University, I got to study with Eugene Cook, a former Life magazine photographer and that was tremendously empowering and amazing.
J-B.com: Who or what influenced you to become a photographer?
Miki: I think I was just inspired by other people's work. i loved James VanDerZee. Margaret Bourke White, Gordon Parks, Ansel Adams and later on fell for the brilliance of Annie Lebovitz, Moneta Sleet, my friend Kirk McCoy and my friend the late, great Angela Pancrazio. Both of them are Pulitzer Prize winners but Angela, perhaps more than anyone else had a tremendous impact on the way I see things through the lens. She was truly gifted and I have her work hanging all over my house. And right now I'm studying with Leroy Hamilton, who is just a master and a great guy. He's teaching me so much.
J-B.com: How would you describe your photographic style?
Miki: It's honest. I like to capture the essence of a subject with simplicity. I don't like to spend a lot of time Photoshopping or altering images. I just want the truth.
J-B.com: Can you remember the first photo you took that made you go WOW!?
Miki: Sure can, I was working at a small paper in Grant County, Kentucky and there was this old man who used to sit in front of the courthouse every day. I think his name was Clyde. He always wore the same outfit--a train conductor's cap and denim overalls. One day there was this little girl sitting on his lap. It was such a sweet image. But every time I tried to get her to look at the camera she'd turn away--the dangers of shooting without a motor drive. On about the 10th attempt I finally caught her. I submitted that photo to a contest and won honorable mention. Recalling that makes me wonder what's happened to them. That was nearly 30 years ago.
J-B.com: Who or what would you love to shoot that you haven't already?
Miki: Good question. I would love to shoot more of tribal Africa; I would love to do a self-portrait with Whoopi Goldberg and myself since I get mistaken for her all the time; I'd love to shoot Jennifer Beals, another great photographer, since she shot me; I will do more with Laurel Holloman because you're always going to get the truth with her; and I'd like some sessions with the hunks-- George Clooney, my baby daddy Colin Farrell, my other baby daddy Idris Elba and my buddy Shemar Moore. Also, I wish I could have spent some time with Audrey Hepburn when she was still with us. I never saw a bad photo of her.
J-B.com: Please tell your funniest, scariest, most bizarre, most touching story from a photo shoot.
Miki: Wow. One of the scariest shoots happened last year in South Africa at a game reserve. We had finally happened upon a herd of elephants after searching all day and the guide parked our jeep very close to them. They were all grazing but then suddenly one of the babies starts approaching the jeep. I was like, "Uh, shouldn't we be going now?!" Fortunately, the little booger was just a bit curious and stopped about two feet out and resumed eating his dinner. My heart did skip a few beats though. The most touching would be a series of shots I took of my dad near the end of his life. He was not very communicative that day and I couldn't get him to smile. I think he knew he was transitioning. Still, I love that I captured what he was going through at that point in time. I can barely look at those shots today..
J-B.com: How do you feel about digital manipulation and to what extent do you utilize it?
Miki: I'm a purist and I understand why some people do it but I think it's cheating in a way. I want to create striking images, not illusions. I mean when you look at the great artistic photographers of the past and the great photojournalists who didn't have this technology at their disposal, their raw work still stands up and in many cases is far superior and more compelling than a lot of what we see today. That said, I will sometimes use some PhotoShop tricks to tweak a sunset, but never in shots involving people. When I'm converting images to black-and-white, I'll tinker with the tones to "Garbo-ize" the image, but that's about the extent of it.
J-B.com: You’re working as a freelance producer/writer, are there any projects you’re currently working on? What would you ideally like to see on television or the big screen?
Miki: I am currently working on a photo coffee table book called Journey to the Woman I Will Become. The book basically chronicles the evolution of a diverse group of women by asking them: "At what point did you fall in love with yourself?" It's really been a terrific experience and there's a great group of women who have graciously agreed to be a part of it. Nikki Giovanni, Sanaa Lathan, Laurel Holloman, Amy Brenneman, Regina King, Gabrielle Union, Jane Lynch, Wanda Sykes, Tananarive Due, Tina Andrews, Suzanne Malveaux and a ton of women you've never heard of but are equally interesting and intriguing. So, the photos of Laurel and her daughter are part of that collection. I did two shoots with her near her home in Malibu. The first time I didn't really capture her. The second time she brought Nala and it was instant magic.
I would definitely like to see more shows like ABC Family Channel's "Lincoln Heights" that explores the African American experience in this country in full tapestry. Also I'm a sucker for the chick flick shows--I still miss "Sex and the City" and "The L Word" (despite the worst series finale in TV history). So, here's hoping my friend can find a compelling character to play on on a show like those.
J-B.com: Describe a day in your personal or professional life.
Miki: When I'm not working I usually just like to stay home or hang out with friends. Laurel or LL has become one of my best friends--family really--and I love hanging out at her crib or with her and the kids at a park. They are amazing and so is her husband Paul, my Midwest homie. I also love spending time with my friends on the East Coast who are so supportive, loving and accepting. I can't imagine life without all of the above. Professionally, I travel a lot, so when I'm on the road I'm pretty much adhering to someone else's schedule, which is just maddening to me. I'm not a morning person and I usually have to get up very early when I'm traveling. There's never really a typical day when I'm at home. Some days I'm free all day and then have to go out to a screening or event. Other days I have to get up and go interview someone or shoot something in the middle of the day. The first thing I always do when I get up is check my emails and turn on the telly to make sure we're all still here. In between all that I try to make time for the gym, play tennis with my friend Janet, work on the book or hang out at the Barnes & Noble at The Grove. There never is a set plan really. I just get up and see what fresh hell awaits me. One thing I rarely do is cook, which is why I'm always trying to find someone to feed me. I love to cook and I'm pretty good at it but cooking for one is a drag.
J-B.com:How did you meet Laurel and for how long have you known her?
Miki: I initially met Laurel on a stage after an L Word press conference for the nation's television critics. I was actually doing a piece on JBeals for BET and the Chicago Tribune RedEye and wanted to get some supporting quotes from LL about her former costar. Later that night we met up again at a Showtime party and found that we had some things in common but I didn't see her again for about five months when I approached her about being in the book. We had lunch and talked so much about other stuff that time ran out before she could answer all of the questions for the book. After that we just kept hanging out. I used to call our meetings "Malibu Mondays." So, I've known her less than a year but honestly I think our friendship is tantamount to stepping out in an old pair of sneakers. It's something that feels warm, comfortable and familiar.
J-B.com: What do you think is Laurel’s number one quality that makes her so loved amongst her fans?
Miki: That's easy. She's so honest and caring. What you see is what you get. That's what initially drew me to her. I remember when I first met her she was refreshingly candid. I even remember her grabbing my arm because she was afraid I might fall off the stage. In a way she's still keeping me from falling. I've had a very rough year personally and professionally and even though she's not one of my oldest friends, she's become one of my closet and has been tremendously helpful as I've tried to move past the loss and the pain. I told her recently I wished I had met her 10 years ago but I don't really think it's an accident that we met at this point in time. I think the thing I love the most about LL is that unlike a lot of people in this town she never hides behind the press release. By that I mean she's not afraid to be vulnerable or admit that she's a flawed human being like the rest of us. Now if I could just get her to stay up past 10... :-)
J-B.com: We are assuming you have watched The L Word, who is your favorite character and of course we’d like to know who your favorite couple is?
Miki: Who didn't love Tina and Bette? Initially when I reviewed the show I thought that couple was brilliantly written and that JBeals and LL delivered such nuanced performances. Then, unfortunately, the writing started to go a bit left and the scenarios became a little over the top and sloppy. For example, I think it was in S3 when Bette told the gang that Tina's mom "is a lone star." I'm not a student and only recently realized the global impact of TLW, so I'm not sure if that was the first mention of Tina's non-existent family. But a few years later I'm watching those horrid interrogation tapes and Tina's talking about how her mom died when she was in college. If she were already dead then why was Bette referring to her in the present tense? Stuff like that, and the atrocity that was season six, just diminished the overall impact of the show for me. But honestly, even before I met LL, Tina was always my favorite character. I could see elements of myself in her--particularly when it came to her professional life. I also thought she was always the best dressed character.
J-B.com: If you had to play any character on the show, who would it be and why?
Miki: Wow, if I had to be gay for pay I'd probably want to play Alice. I like being the comic relief. It's my role in life.
J-B.com: You’re definitely a movie expert, what are the latest movies you’d recommend to tibette fans to watch? (or not to watch, lol)
Miki: I loved "An Education" and "Precious." I think both will get multiple Oscar nods. Big ups to my girl Mo'Nique! She totally rocks her role! And Carey Mulligan was simply enchanting in "Education." Also dug "This is It" and "Up in the Air." Beware of "Ninja Assassin" and anything featuring teen-age vampires!
J-B.com:You have interviewed quite some celebrities, is there anyone that stood out to you in particular? Why was that?
Miki: That's always the hardest question to answer! I've always loved talking to the older people like Eartha Kitt, Leslie Caron, Lauren Bacall, Patti LaBelle, Diahann Carroll, Sidney Poitier and most recently Bill Cosby. They have been around long enough to get it and for the most part don't need a script to carry on a conversation. That said, I've had some great chats with Halle Berry (my first magazine cover girl ever!), Maya Angelou, Billy Bob Thornton (my not-so-secret crush) and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. But honestly, other than LL (of course I had to mention her!), the most fascinating person I've spoken to recently was a woman who grew up in Nazi Germany. Her name is Rosa and she was a patient at the nursing home my dad was in. Even though she was suffering from dementia, she was crystal clear when it came to talking about her childhood. She told me she thought the Nazis were "stupid" and that she couldn't understand the hatred. That conversation really made an impact on me. I learned things that day, which is what I always strive to do during any interview..
J-B.com: Are you enjoying Twitter as a platform to get in touch with people all over the world and do you think it ’s good for celebrities (like Laurel) to make full use of it? (maybe as opposed to Facebook/Myspace)
Miki: I am and I think LL is, too. She's someone who really likes interacting with her admirers so it's a perfect venue for her to do so. But with two kids and her work it's sometimes hard for her to keep up with it all. Be patient with her!
J-B.com: You’re in dire need of a personal assistant, what set of qualifications are you looking for?
LOL! This is so true! I just need someone to do all the other work so I can spend all my time tweeting and updating my Facebook status. No, seriously, I do need a timely individual with a good sense of humor to just sort through all the mail and provide another set of hands during the photo shoots. That would be heavenly. I'm not that girl who would ever have someone do my laundry, pick up my dry cleaning or fetch me meals. That's LL's job!!.
J-B.com: You seem to travel a lot, do you have a place on earth where you haven’t spread your ‘mayhem’ yet, but would love to? :-)
Miki: Oh yes, so many places. Have yet to get to Oz (Australia). I suspect I could spread some considerable mayhem in Bali and Bangkok and I'd love to shoot some scenes in Red Square.
J-B.com: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Miki: Hey tibetters this was really fun and somewhat cathartic too. I know LL is very fond of this site and although I'm a newbie I think your team does great work! Keep it up! And thanks to all my tweeties for your support of mikiphoto. It means the world to me!