IN MILLER MOBLEY’S GEAR BAG:
CAMERAS: Canon 5D Mark III and Phase One Camera with Digital Back LENSES: Canon 50mm and 80mm, Schneider Kreuznach 35mm,
55mm, 80mm and 110mm LIGHTING: Profoto 8a 2400 packs and heads, Broncolor Para 133 reflector, Briese Focus 77 key light
PYSK: MILLER MOBLEY
FROM TOP LEF T: Julianne
Moore shot using a
one-light setup; Kevin
Spacey in the Palm
Springs desert; a simple
approach for Natalie
Portman, fresh off a
long international flight.
A LEAP OF FAITH
That was five years ago, and, Mobley says, “that was obviously crazy.”
They lived in the Chelsea neighborhood for a few years in a 400-square-
foot apartment. And for their first five months there, Mobley’s phone
was pretty quiet.
“I thought things were just going to start happening once we
moved,” he says, “but basically I pressed a reset on my career. That’s
how it felt. I had to start all over.”
Even Saba questioned why he’d wanted to move from Alabama,
knowing Mobley didn’t understand how hard it would be to become a
relevant, successful photographer in New York. “My being naïve wound
up helping me though,” Mobley realized later. “You don’t know what
you don’t know, and sometimes that can give you an advantage.”
That thinking proved itself a few months later when he was walking
through the airport and spotted a copy of The Hollywood Reporter.
He contacted Jennifer Laski, the photo and video director for The
Hollywood Reporter and Billboard, who replied that the next time
he’s in L.A., come in and see her. Mobley immediately booked a flight
to L.A., and coolly wrote that he happened to be heading there the
The trip to L.A. did not go as planned. Mobley almost missed his
flight, and when he got there, Laski couldn’t be reached for four days.
Feeling defeated, Mobley returned to LAX, but an hour before his flight
back to New York, Laski emailed him: she had a 15-minute window for
a sit-down at her office. Mobley tore through the airport and rushed in
to show her his book. She didn’t see any celebrities in his portfolio, but
she could tell by his portraits that he was capable of shooting them—
photographing strangers and getting them to open up was a good start.
She wound up giving him an assignment on the spot.
Mobley’s career has been snowballing ever since. One shoot led to
another, and then another, then 10 more, and 20 more. He’s now part of
a fast-paced world of rapid-fire photo shoots and turnarounds.
Mobley’s had to learn on the fly that besides shooting beautiful
photos, getting hired again and again, especially as a celebrity
portrait photographer, means being overly prepared, flexible and fast.
Nowadays, he’s known for it.
JUST T WO KIDS FROM ALABAMA
Prep starts with Jana. She’s not a photographer, but Mobley’s wife is
heavily involved in the creative side of the editorial shoots—making
mood boards, treatments, conceiving the set design, wardrobe, hair and
makeup. “Basically we build a portfolio of inspiration together,” he says.
This partnership runs seamlessly—after all, Mobley and his wife know
each other quite well, having first met when they were 14 years old.
A few days before the shoot, Mobley goes over lighting and
possible setups with his assistants, and he talks to the set designer
about the vision. On the day of the shoot, they get there early to set up
and try things out.
The more prepping in advance, the better, but some things that just
come naturally to Mobley require no rehearsing; connecting with his
subjects and getting them to engage is one of those things.
“There’s something about the South
that people find intriguing and comforting,
and they can warm up to the idea that
we’re just two Southerners,” he says. “Just
being chill, being cool, being a real person,
not trying too hard to impress the person
I’m photographing, and being flexible.
Celebrities are photographed on a weekly
basis. How can you be a breath of fresh
air when you get to set? How can you
shine a different light on the whole photo