Zeitgeist: Lia Clay Miller

In recent years, Lia Clay Miller has risen to be America’s leading trans photographer. Here, she reflects on a tumultuous period in the US and the role of identity in photography

Lia Clay Miller waves to me on Zoom, her hair tied up in a bun, a shawl hanging over her shoulders, her disparate tattoos peeking out from beneath her top. She’s speaking from North Carolina, where she grew up, and where she’s currently holed up with her husband, on the weekend America voted for Joe Biden to be the next president of the United States. “I’m really missing Brooklyn right now,” Miller says. “It’s like a carnival back there.”

Miller is now established as America’s leading trans photographer. The imminent demise of Donald Trump is a joyous moment for her, but it’s also cause for reflection. Trump’s time in office was profoundly anxiety-provoking for anyone of a liberal mind in America, but especially so for a trans community that has historically been actively discriminated against by America’s most conservative figures.

Yet a side effect of Trump’s election in 2016 meant that Miller would suddenly be “shunted to the front of the queue” of the fashion photography industry, she says. At the time, Miller was planning to work as a production assistant or photography editor. She had a staff job on Teen Vogue and took portraits of her friends in New York’s queer community, largely as a form of personal and private self-expression.

Top: Janet Mock, styled by Yashua Simmons for Out magazine; Above: Aba, in Christopher John Rogers. All images © Lia Clay Miller