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ART: Uganda through Miller’s lens

There is something about Uganda that fascinates as well as it baffles, especially foreign eyes. It appears that the much touted mantra of “gifted by nature” strikes more of a chord among foreigners than Ugandans. Could it be that Ugandans are caught in the rut of the old adage, “familiarity breeds contempt”?

In any case, it appears outsiders tend to derive more pleasure and visual nourishment from our natural features than we do. And American photographer, Thomas Miller, decided to take this nourishment a notch higher.

Perhaps bored by the usual mundane observation of nature and the built environment through the lenses of his camera, he decided to give it a twist. After taking the photos, he reproduces them in an abstract manner. The outcome is nothing akin to the photographic precision we know of those machines but rather a personal interpretation of the sights.

Miller is no tourist; by now he must have gotten accustomed to this environment and could as well be viewing it much like many Ugandans. But his eagle eye bears a curiosity for detail, the useless and the abandoned in objects than any other person. He sees everything with a different perspective.

Thomas Miller has been living in Uganda for seven years,, during which time he has spent quite a load of hours capturing the sights and moments.

His collection will be showcased at the AKA Gallery in Bukoto, Kampala, under the rubric, “My Uganda.” The repertoire includes images that are completely non-representation in nature but exude a beautiful array of colours.

“They are titled according to their actual subjects,” says Miller of his recent works, “but remind me of ideas and objects far different from these subjects and, if they are to be successful as art, they will remind you of something altogether different from either.”

He does not mention the actual locations of the scenes for the obvious reason that they are abstractions that could have been found anywhere. Moreover, the titles he gives them could offer a speck of knowledge about them: ‘Torn and Cut’, ‘Poster Remnant’, ‘Water and Sun on Steel Plate’, Corroded Metal, Poster Remnant’, etc. We observe that these are objects that can probably be found in any familiar place in Kampala or Arua or Mbale but with certainly no particular interest to any ‘serious’ person. Even Miller is quick to add that these images “certainly weren’t “chosen” by me; I just happened to see these images wherever I was and responded to them instinctually, the way I respond to everything I photograph.  I don’t make logical, rational choices, and then take the photographs.”

Thomas Miller has a master’s degree in Architecture from the University of California, Berkley and a bachelor in the same. As an architect, his mind’s eye must have received a kind of orientation that is absent in the ‘common’ mind. When you take his so-called uncommon mind (my words) through a camera, with all its ability to manipulate the photographer’s object of interest, we should not be very surprised when we are presented by these abstractions of Miller’s Uganda.  He has showcased his collections in up to sixteen solo photography exhibitions since 1990; with his maiden Ugandan show in 2013 at AKA Gallery. He has also participated in eight group shows; especially in the U.S. His second show at AKA Gallery is an opportunity to show the world the sophistication of the human faculties in interpreting what surrounds us.


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