Richard "Dick" Crump Miller was born August 6, 1912 in Hanford, California and passed away on October 15, 2010
Dick's interest in photography was sparked by his father's 3x4 folding roll-film camera and in 1929 he was introduced to the Leica and Speed Graflex cameras. He later studied cinematography at Stanford University and Pomona College. It was his first year at Stanford when he won the welterweight boxing championship and retained that title until moving on to Pomona and finally USC. It was there he met Margaret, his future wife of seventy years and "the luckiest thing he ever did".
Having ambitions as an actor, Dick appeared in a stage play in 1935 at the Pasadena Community Playhouse. It was there he shot photographs of fellow players with a borrowed Leica and eventually acquired a Zeiss Conrax I 35mm camera, taking photographs by available light. Looking for work as an actor, Dick traveled to New York. While in New York, he showed his photographs to Edward Steichen and was encouraged by the reaction he received. Dick continued to photograph actors until 1939 at which time he left acting for a career as a photographer.
Dick married Margaret and the couple stayed in his parent's garage where an 8x10 bathroom was soon converted into a darkroom. He learned the tri-color carbro printing process out of a book and was eventually shooting live subjects after he purchased a one-shot color camera. He worked mainly in advertising and commercial photography. There were a number of other photographers in Hollywood at the time, but only a few were working in carbro. Paul Hesse was an exception, but he could not make his own prints—he was mainly a promoter and photographer, and John Kelly made all the carbro prints that Hesse was famous for. Dick met Kelly and over time became friends with him.
In 1939, their daughter Linda was born. When she was two, Dick borrowed a 2x3 from the B. B. Nichols shop, took her picture and made a carbro. He sent the picture to the Saturday Evening Post. "I didn't know they didn't buy photos," he says now. But in 1941 Dick's carbro print of his daughter was adopted as a cover, one of only two photographic Post covers that year and the first that Dick had ever sold. The photograph got Dick the attention of some NY agents and enabled him to sign up with the Freelance Photographer's Guild. He sent them material that they sold for him.
Then the war came. At that point "you could either go into the service or get a war job," he remembers. So in 1941, looking for employment, Dick attended a group sales pitch presented by North American Aviation and Lockheed for the purpose of hiring wartime employees. Dick got a job in the photo department at North American and began at last to earn a steady income from his photography. At North American, he also met the photographer Brett Weston, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship.
He sold some of his photographs through the Freelance Photographers Guild and freelanced his other work to Liberty and This Week magazines, among others. "At that time the magazines did not accept 35mm," he says. "But later they found they could get perfectly good results from Kodachrome 35mm."
But Dick had an exemption when he went to work for Dr. Bela Gaspar. Gasparcolor, the dye bleach process on which the Cibachrome (now called Ilfochrome) process is based, was considered vital to the war effort, and Gaspar was able to provide Dick with an exemption because he was convinced Dick was essential to his work—he was the only printer able to test and print with the material as it was being developed.
He photographed celebrities for Family Circle, Parents, American Weekly, Colliers, Life, and Time, mostly on assignment through the agency. Returning once again to freelance work from 1955 to 1962, Dick was on retainer at Globe Photos, covering the entertainment industry. Charles Bloch at Globe hired Dick on a daily basis for assignments. "I worked day to day, depending on the assignments." In time, he covered more than seventy films.
His first on-location assignment was for Giant (1955), where his job was to shadow James Dean. When Dean died, a lot of pictures of him were sold, becoming iconic images and providing Dick with much-needed income. The death had a big impact on Dick, since he and Dean had developed a close relationship based on a mutual interest in Porsches. For some time during the 1970s, Dick experimented with grinding pigment and coating his own pigment transfer papers to create carbros. The most difficult item to obtain was the uncoated bromide needed to make the tri-color transfers in the carbro process. He eventually obtained it by convincing a manufacturer to make a special run, and he was able to make a few tri-color test prints.
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