In order to get reacquainted with his hometown, he went around taking pictures of Miami skylines and other sites in the city. He says officers would approach and forbid him from photographing buildings or bridges or trains. “I always told them ‘I have the right to be here,’ but I would cooperate. But those pictures were just for myself,” Miller says. But when police told him to put his camera away while he was on a paid assignment for a local website, he refused. He was arrested and charged with nine misdemeanors: five counts of refusing a lawful order (because there were five cops); disorderly conduct, obstructing traffic, obstructing justice, and resisting arrest without violence.
“My blog started as a way to proclaim my innocence,” says Miller. He was acquitted of disobeying a police officer and disorderly conduct but convicted of resisting arrest. He successfully appealed that conviction. As that appeal was pending, he was arrested for a second time—this time, he says, while taking pictures of a cop leaning against his car. An officer deleted the photos, which he later recovered. He was charged with public intoxication; the charge was later dismissed due to lack of evidence.
As one might expect of a man who has made his name antagonizing the police, Miller conducts himself with a righteous confidence that can verge on defiance. In some of his videos, he becomes argumentative; in conversation, he is generally unapologetic about the confrontations he’s provoked. But pugnacity isn’t a crime; and, indeed, Miller makes a point of knowing the laws and not breaking them. “Everything I do, I know I’ll beat the charges, because I know the law,” he says.
Francisco Alvarado has been a reporter in Miami for the past 15 years, and has been with the alt-weekly Miami New Times for the past decade. This January, he wrote a mini-feature naming Photography is Not a Crime as one of the city’s best blogs. While some people in the community think that Miller is simply out for attention, “I think he’s really serious about holding police accountable,” says Alvarado. “His style is definitely abrasive, and in your face, but he gets stuff out there, and it is news.”
Miller never runs out of things to say when he talks about filming police. This shows through on his blog, which he updates at least once a day, sometimes more, with posts that are usually between 500 and 1000 words. He has a regular commenting community; while comments on a story have gone into the hundreds, the number usually stays in the double digits. His blog has received over 7 million hits since it first started. It’s housed on a photography website called Pixiq, which is owned by Barnes and Noble, and Miller gets paid based on page views. He says May is on track to be a record month for traffic; he’s had over 560,000 page views in the last 30 days.
Though most of his posts are about other photographers’ run-ins with police, Miller also covers his own exploits. He’s attempted to go through airport security with his camera rolling and the TSA’s policy printed and ready to show to agents. After being told a number of times he couldn’t record he happily blogged this February that a TSA agent knew the official policy and let him pass through. He conducted similar experiments on Miami’s Metrorail. The first time, he and a friend went with a print out of the law in their hand to “see if the Metrorail security guards knew the law when it came to photography. “They didn’t,” says Miller, who ended up permanently banned from the Metrorail system.