At just age 27, Miller Mobley has risen to the top of the ultra competitive photography industry to become one of the most sought after shooters in the business, traveling the world shooting A-list celebrities on assignment for the likes of TIME, Entertainment Weekly and the Hollywood Reporter, to name a few. He’s done it all with his wife of five years, Jana, by his side as his producer, sounding board and brain storming partner. Despite their wild success, the Alabama natives remain true to their kind and gracious Southern roots. The NYC-based couple let us in how they work together so well, their favorite photo shoots and go-to date night spots in the big city.
*This is the first post in our new series “Love + Work” on couples who collaborate and find a way to bring their creative endeavors together without compromising their relationship.
Miller and Jana first locked eyes in high school on a church bus when they were headed to a youth retreat in Florida. Jana remembers with a laugh: “I was 16 and Miller was only 14, so it was quite the scandalous situation. We somehow had an instant connection, whatever that means when you are that young…” But, it was a lasting one, and the pair has been together ever since.
photo by guerin blask
Miller and Jana took a break on set for a shoot for the Hollywood Reporter. As Jana studied accounting in college and Miller started landing photography assignments as a junior in college, they started to dream of working together one day. “By his senior year of college, Miller was getting regular advertising assignments, missing a lot of class and failing his photography classes,” Jana says. “In the midst of all that, we got married, Miller dropped out to run his business full-time and we moved to New York.”
photo by guerin blask
Jana does some producer work, but Miller describes her role as much more significant than just that. “Jana shines in her relationship with our clients. Some of these shoots get very high pressure and move quickly and she knows exactly how to handle me and the client in those situations,” Miller says. “She is a sounding board for all my ideas. If something is not up to the standard we go for, then she pushes me to try something else or to work harder to get a shot I can be proud of.”
photo by guerin blask
Jana often creates mood boards like this one for Miller’s assignments. Their board is constantly changing, depending on what inspires them that week. “I always like to let her [Jana] loose when it comes to finding inspiration for shoots. She also does research on all of our subjects in order to come up with great concepts for them,” Miller says. “Jana did not really grow up in a very creative environment, but I know she’s always had a creative side to her, and I feel like it’s just starting to shine and will continue to do so and grow even bigger.”
Their shared passion for producing beautiful images is what drives the couple to work the grueling hours. While some couples can’t imagine being with their spouse all hours of the day, these two call it the greatest perk of all. “Not having enough quality time together is never a problem we run into! Another great thing is that we get to travel together,” Jana says. “If we have extra time when traveling for a shoot, we will stay extra day so we can hang out and explore whatever city we happen to be in.”
photo by guerin blask
They just moved from Chelsea to Dumbo a few weeks ago. “We love the quieter, quaint, more neighborly feel and just the beauty of it. The beautiful cobblestone streets and the park area under the bridge is picture perfect — so gorgeous that it looks like a movie set,” Jana says. Since most of their shoots happen in Manhattan, they love that Dumbo is only one train stop away. Their favorite NYC date night spots? Buvette, Le Charlot, Vinegar Hill House (pictured), Cafe Paulette and Casellula.
photo by eric isaac
A sampling of Miller’s work and the behind-the-scenes stories of the images — “With all these celebrity shoots, it’s always fun to see what these people are really like when they are not acting or playing a part,” Miller says. “Sometimes we are blown away with how nice and humble people seem, or just how fun they are. Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan come to mind as one of the most fun shoots because they were the nicest, most up for anything, down-to-earth people.”
“The actual shoot was of Amanda and her stylist, but at the end, Amanda asked if I would snap a few of she and her dog — those turned out to be our favorites,” Miller says.
“We had a few hours with Tina and she was such a pleasant, kind person,” Miller says. “She looked absolutely amazing in that green Oscar de la Renta gown.”
“This was taken in Toronto during the film festival this year,” Miller says. “It was pretty surreal having Brad Pitt on the other side of the camera. ”
It’s impossible for the Mobleys to pick a favorite shoot, but the Previvors story Miller shot for TIME ranks as one of the most special for the couple. “These women had a history of breast cancer in their family and decided to take action by having a double mastectomy. A lot of the portraits were of the mother who had the surgery with her daughter, which made it even more special,” Jana says. “Just hearing these ladies tell their stories was so inspiring and that is a shoot we will always remember.”
“Allison was extremely down-to-earth and just a cool person. We also did a shot of her on the street and before we started, it started sleeting and was just miserable outside,” Miller remembers. “She didn’t care at all and was still up for going outside and doing the shot we had planned. It was nice working with someone so easy going. ”
Miller is most proud when the subject ends up really liking his or her portrait, as was the case with Kevin Spacey. “We really connected on a lot of levels, and he started turning his personality on for me. That’s what I call ‘giving me the gold.'” Miller says. “That’s when the subject and photographer work together and are in sync. It’s like the subject is almost giving me and my camera a gift. Those photos turned out really special, and Kevin wrote us a nice little letter after the shoot.”
Miller’s favorite part of taking portraits is getting to meet and be a part of someone’s life for a few minutes. “It is always really special. And whether that person is famous or not, having the opportunity to talk with our subjects and Miller being able to capture what he sees in them that day is really cool,” Jana says. This photo of Lupita Nyong’o of 12 Years a Slave was taken a few months ago. “It was before she became the ‘it girl’ she is now. She could not have been sweeter,” Miller says.