Miki Turner is a self-described “late bloomer” when it came to finding her calling. But that hasn’t stopped her from having a number of successful careers including author, photographer to the stars, and journalist extraordinaire. Trust us when we say, there’s a lot to learn from this impressive woman!
Daily Ellement: Tell us a little about yourself!
Miki Turner: I was born in the Midwest and went away to college at 18 to Hampton University, or what was then Hampton Institute, which was a total 180 from what I’d been accustomed to since I grew up in this predominately white and affluent suburb of Cincinnati. I spent four years there doing mainly television and radio. By the time I got out, I was the only one in my class that had a gig lined up. I had an internship at the Kentucky Enquirer and it was arranged for me by one of the mother’s of an old high school classmate. It was a general assignment job, but I knew early on that I didn’t want to go to anyone’s courthouse or board of education meetings and I didn’t want to cover any fires.
So shortly after that internship, I wanted to go back to Virginia. I found a job at a weekly and the only position available was a sports writer. That started my 10, 15-year trek in sports, but I got burned out on that. This woman who hired me initially told me, “Once you lose your passion for something, let it go.” If you’re not passionate about something, it won’t feed you in any way and she was absolutely right.
DE: How did you get involved with photography?
MT: After I covered the marriage between entertainment and sports at ESPN, I decided to pick up photography. I’d gone to Boston University and studied with Eugene Cook. I was still shooting film at that time but then splurged and bought a digital camera, just started shooting away and came up with the concept for my first book. That was globally successful and it ushered me into a different spiritual reality in the sense that I saw the impact this book was making and having on people that read it. So I’ve had an interesting career; I always call it a series of happy accidents.
DE: What inspired you to write your book, Journey To The Woman I’ve Come To Love?
MT: My writing was very much rooted in adversity. I think adversity breeds good writing. I didn’t have a real job at that time and my father had gotten ill. Just being lost. And the ESPN television gig ended, I wasn’t connected enough in television to get another gig like most of my co-workers did. I went to AOL because one of my friends was heading up Black Voices and he asked if I could do on camera, then I lied and said, “Yes!” Then 14 takes later that became my gig, but I was only there a year. Again, I was in flux and trying to figure things out. All of this was happening and most notably, and importantly, my father was dying. I spent a lot of money going back and forth to see him. It was just a crazy period. But even in these rough times, I always know that it’s going to be okay. Something really bad might happen, but you’ll recover. You just have to be patient and wait it out sometimes.
DE: What makes a good picture?
MT: The difference between a snap shot and fine art is angles. It’s all in the angles and using the lighting, the available lighting. I hate to use strobes. I’ll try to shoot anything I can in natural light. You just need to have an eye. People who consider themselves photographers will walk around and just notice things. You’ve just got to be very visual and look for it. I teach my students to shoot in continual mode. You don’t want to miss an expression; you don’t want to miss an emotion.
DE: What has been your most memorable shoot to date?
MT: I shot Michael Jackson, I shot his Bad tour and it’s one of those things you forget. I was in the garage one day and I was like, “Wow, Mike.” And it’s because you do so much, you forget. It was during the film days, so I was looking at the negatives. So that was a thrill. And shooting street scenes in South Africa.
DE: What are some of your interests outside of photography?
MT: I love to scuba dive. I find it very relaxing and liberating. This is a quote from Alfre Woodard, “I like dinner parties with no more than ten people.” I like small intimate settings with friends where we just talk about anything. I love to travel! I love to go to the beach, especially in the Caribbean. I like the vibe, the food. I like hot yoga and to ride my bike, getting my exercise in however I can.
I watch a lot of TV and I am not at all apologetic about it. I like everything that comes on Thursday nights on ABC. And I will say this about “Empire,” though. I don’t think it’s a great show, but it is very addictive and it’s that guilty pleasure show like “Dynasty” was. I love “Episodes” on Showtime. I like those campy little TV shows on TV One, “Unsung Hollywood” and “Fatal Attraction” are sadly some of my favorites.
And I don’t shop as much as I used to, but I still love a good bargain!
DE: What’s a piece of advice you have for aspiring photographers?
MT: It’s not about the equipment; it’s about you. You can have the best equipment in the world and take a crappy shot. Or you can have a box camera that cost you $2.98 and take a fabulous shot. I take great shots on my iPhone while riding on the subway. Photography is like the yin and yang; it’s incredibly fulfilling but it’s also incredibly frustrating.
DE: What’s next for you?
MT: Tenure! I think I’m going to keep evolving. I do love teaching and I do love the vibe here, so I’ll stick around and see how that goes. I don’t know that I want to be married, but I would like to get in another relationship. I can’t have kids because I never have food in my house.
There are another few books and another couple exhibitions in the future. I think the stuff I’m doing on the subway everyday is going to be an exhibition. I’m shooting them all in monochrome and it’s just really popping. I really want to do a workshop around the world. I want to pick a different city each summer.