“This is a family,” Miller says of the Yellowstone cast; an intimate group he’s been photographing for half a decade now.
When you see a stirring set photo or spectacular cast capture from Yellowstone, you’re seeing the work of Emerson Miller. A Brazil native, Miller’s made the ultimate American dream come true through incredible perseverance – and a dose of “right place, right time.”
Miller’s Hollywood story began as many do: with a blue-collar job in Tinsel Town. After attending business school in his native country, Emerson moved to LA, where he worked at a car wash. Then luck, or fate, intervened.
“I had a friend who was good friends with Nicole Sheridan,” Miller reveals in TV Guide Magazine’s all-out Yellowstone spectacular. Aside from being a tried & true cowgirl herself, fans will know she’s also the spouse of the mastermind behind television’s top phenomenon, Taylor Sheridan.
‘You guys are going to be best friends. You have to do something together.’
Emerson had a small portfolio to show from photographing locals on the LA strip. But fate had other plans. “You guys are going to be best friends. You have to do something together,” Miller’s friend told him of the Sheridans. The group made a meet-and-greet happen, and before he knew it, Emerson was the second-unit photographer on Sheridan’s 2017 Western thriller, Wind River.
As the photographer will tell you, however – luck, fate, or whatever you want to call it – is never a substitute for old-fashioned hard work. Miller busted his backside, becoming the go-to photographer for all things Taylor Sheridan. Hard work and a God-given talent for high-contrast photography meant he was along for the ride while Sheridan whipped up a little thing called Yellowstone.
“It’s insane, because I came with so much innocence,” a humble Miller continues. Born in the “ghetto” of Brazil, he enrolled in an inner-city school to escape poverty and pursue his dreams.
“I’d like to dedicate this post to the cop that stopped me 15 years ago and laughed at my face when I told him I was on my way to my English class,” Miller captions his post above that shows off his feature. “He told me once you are born in the ghetto, you die in the ghetto. If he only knew how big of a dreamer I am. I wish him well.”
Along Came ‘Yellowstone’
Once the time came to start photographing Yellowstone, Miller still had only six years of camera experience under his belt. “My first day on set, I was like ‘Taylor, how do I do this?’ And he just said. ‘Be yourself and don’t worry.”
The rest is history. Emerson’s true love is the high-contrast photography that captures the cast of Yellowstone unlike anything else. As both he and Sheridan attest, that cast includes the incomparable scenery Montana offers.
“I pay a lot of attention to natural light. You’re capturing what nature is giving to you,” he explains. It’s the cast portraits, in turn, that require a bit of extra help.
Miller coordinates episodic photos, press shots, and galleries for Paramount while filming happens. “Whenever they’re moving cameras and I see an opportunity, I’ll ask, ‘Can you stay here for 15 seconds? I just want to take this,'” he reveals. “That’s how most of the posed photographs are planned. It’s in the moment when I see something.”
Some of the more intimate photos of the cast, however, happen on “weekend hangouts” or while Emerson’s simply spending time with his friends. Who are, coincidentally, the stars of the biggest show on television.
Not Even Rip Wheeler Can Resist an Emerson Miller Black & White
One of the most striking examples came as Cole Hauser, the indomitable force behind Rip Wheeler, was emerging from that outdoor bath for PEOPLE’s Sexiest Men shoot. “We were just playing around and had this idea that he comes out of the water,” Miller recalls. “I take the photograph and [Cole] says, ‘That’s it! That’s the photo for my family. No one posts this!'”
“Cut to – he posts it on Instagram!” Miller laughs of Hauser, who ended up sharing the stunning black-and-white photo himself:
But Miller doesn’t mind in the least. Instead, he feels it’s a gesture of love; as are each of his photos. “Because we are all friends and we’re so comfortable with each other, I feel like it resonates in the photographs,” he offers.
Emerson’s Yellowstone portfolio is full of shots that hold “such a deeper meaning” for this very reason. “This is a family,” he says of the cast.
“My career has taken a wild turn since the beginning of Yellowstone, and I wouldn’t have done it without Taylor Sheridan,” he concludes his own Instagram post as the next season films. “To everybody out there, don’t ever give up on your dreams.”
Yellowstone will return with plenty more photographs from Emerson Miller come Season 5 this November 13.