The Year in Pictures

  • Fritz the Nite Owl at the Grandview Theatre: I grew up watching Fritz the Nite Owl’s show, so I was excited to photograph Frederick Peerenboom — apparently that’s his real name. I couldn’t wait to see his famous owl-shaped glasses. He still has the original pair, adorned with little tiny mirrors. He was full of stories and didn’t stop talking the whole time we were there (note the mid-sentence pucker in the photograph). One of my favorite tales was of his young granddaughter who didn’t think her famous grandpa was cool until she found his Chuck Taylor Converse shoes.
  • Yeah, Me Too coffee: The Yeah, Me Too coffee window is just one of those unique visual details that makes living and photographing in Columbus so great. The black letters painted onto each snare drum spell out “coffee” in the window, framed by my favorite color — blue.
  • Bands To Watch: This was the first year I got to shoot the Bands to Watch covers for Alive. We were pretty ambitious, choosing a different location for each of the five bands while toting around an old-school projector screen to reinforce the “watch” theme and thread the photos together thematically. Each band got its own cover as well as a picture to go inside. Alive’s graphic designer, Michaela Schuett, and I came up with the idea of filmstrips for the inside photos. I know everyone has seen this technique before, but I think it worked well here. The Wet Darlings made for an especially good strip.
  • Anita Kwan: Anita Kwan is a co-founder of If you’ve ever checked out Anita’s website, it’s easy to detect her enthusiasm, affection and curiosity for this city. We shoot an average of 20 assignments for Alive each week, so it can be challenging to find a new location. I really wanted to shoot Anita with the skyline, and North Bank Park near Downtown provided a great setting for that. Writer John Ross held my portable light while Anita did her best to jump off the ledge, pose and smile while keeping her camera from hitting her in the face. Everything came together for only two frames out of 12 or so tries.
  • Jonathan Youngman: Jonathan Youngman is a coordinator at Franklinton Cycle Works. The Cycle Works building had a lot of interesting spots I could have used for Jonathan’s environmental portrait. I still struggle when going into a location I’ve never been before, trying to make visual sense of the spot. You want it to be interesting, but not too busy. For newsprint, images should be graphic and bright so they hold up through the printing process. Luckily, there was a wall painted chartreuse and a line of bikes. I asked Jonathan to wedge himself between the bikes and to then to “just act natural.” His body language and easy smile made the photo for me.
  • Bob Cook: Alive photo editor Will Shilling came up with the concept of office gags for our comedy issue this year. Alive writer John Ross and photographer Dan Sohner helped put up sticky note after sticky note to fill the empty cubicle. Bob Cook, a Columbus comedian, was great about it. And it was his idea to have nipple notes. That totally makes the picture for me. And yes, we reused all of the sticky notes from the shoot.
  • Erin Chacey: Erin Chacey is the new director of Green Columbus. The Earth Day cover was one of my favorite shoots this year. It’s no secret that I love to rip off Annie Leibovitz. One of my favorite photos by her is of Lauren Hutton covered in mud. I thought that was a perfect photo concept for an Earth Day cover. Then I had to convince Erin. She was skeptical at first, but she went all in on a chilly April day and let me cover her with dirt.
  • Nelsonville Music Festival: The Nelsonville Music Festival was a great assignment. Alive music writer Chris DeVille and I got to spend the whole weekend there. The music was incredible, but Mother Nature was a pill. It rained almost the whole weekend. By the three-day festival’s final day, the whole infield in front of the main stage was a giant mud pit, and I was exhausted and cold from sleeping in a wet tent. Sadly, I brought only one pair of shoes. I was happy when it ended, but I already can’t wait to go again next year.
  • Mayor Mike Coleman: John Ross’ cover story on the rise of Franklinton was one of Alive’s best this year. We spent a lot of time in the neighborhood for that cover story and for our coverage of Chris Sherman’s renovation of 400 West Rich. Art is popping up everywhere in Franklinton, and more and more people are discovering the area. I like this picture of Mayor Coleman because of the way he outstretched his arms. He’s proud of Franklinton’s progress, and I felt it showed in that picture.
  • Meechie Nelson: Local rapper Meechie Nelson is from the suburbs, so when we needed a location to photograph him, we decided on his hometown of Westerville. We wanted it to look as suburban as possible. I met Meechie and a friend of his in a cookie-cutter cul-de-sac. We had a great time taking pictures until one of the residents came up to us and wanted to know what we were doing and whether we had I.D. — and if she should call the police to make sure we were who we said we were. It took a lot of talking, but she finally relented and moseyed back to trimming her roses.
  • Karrio Ballard: Karrio Ballard is a Columbus rapper who goes by Zero Star. We met at Bodega and took a series of very serious pictures. Then I asked him to smile for a couple, and he started cracking up at me for asking because he thought he should be serious. I showed him the progression of photos on the back of the camera and he agreed. Great smile, great Ali shirt and an excellent blue Bodega booth.
  • Burglar: The now disbanded band Burglar had the whole shoot planned even before I got there. They had costumes, blindfolds and a woman with a shotgun. Just another day at the office.
  • 45spacers: We call the paper’s full-page section fronts “splash pages.” Brett Ruland from Spoonful Records let me play around with a box of 45 inserts, and he happened to have a red chair in the shop. I like the bold red and yellow colors, but the best part was being in the office and overhearing my younger co-workers ask what those yellow things were.
  • Nida’s Thai on High: Between Alive and Columbus Crave magazine, I photograph a lot of food. Usually when arranging the shoot with the restaurant we try to pick a time between the lunch and dinner rushes. I shot a few dishes at Nida’s Thai on High just before the restaurant closed for the afternoon. When I finished, I wandered into the kitchen to thank Nida, who was huddled around the end of a counter eating lunch with her staff. I asked them if I could shoot a few pictures. One lady ran away, but most of them stayed and laughed at me while enjoying their break together.
  • Nina West: This was my favorite shoot and favorite picture this year. Nina West was our Pride cover model, and she was amazing. She invited us to visit her studio at Junctionview for the shoot. I had taken a bright pink backdrop to set up. I didn’t count on Nina being 7 feet tall — before heels — and wearing a bright pink cotton-candy wig. That short backdrop wasn’t going to cut it. We had to use a wall in Junctionview and find a ladder for my 5-foot 4-inch self to stand on. Nina West is a great entertainer, and that made her fun to photograph. As luck would have it somebody had painted the word “art” on the wall we were using. I thought the word described her perfectly.
From the December 27, 2011 edition
Alive photographer Jodi Miller shares the story behind each of her favorite pictures from 2011

Click above for slideshow — All photos by Jodi Miller