Photographer Sandro Miller’s Chicago

Sandro Miller shows us what he loves about Chicago

Sandro Miller has been photographing people and places for more than three decades. He’s an award-winning shooter known for shooting campaigns for big brands like AMEX, Nikon, BMW, Nike, Coca-Cola, Adidas, Dove and Gatorade; was the first-ever American photographer (after the embargo) invited by the Cuban government to travel to the island nation in 2001 to shoot Cuban athletes; and has had editorial work appear everywhere from the New Yorker and Esquire to Wired and Newsweek.

One of the coolest things about Sandro is his close friendship and working relationship with actor John Malkovich. The two have teamed up on a few short films that Sandro has produced and directed, but their crowning project, titled “Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich: Homage to Photographic Masters,” is truly incredible. In this series, which debuted in 2014 at Chicago’s Catherine Edelman Gallery, featured Malkovich re-creating famous subjects: Meryl Streep shot by Annie Leibovitz; Che Guevara by Alberto Korda; Albert Einstein by Arthur Sasse; Marilyn Monroe by Bert Stern; a set of identical twin girls by Diane Arbus and more iconic, immediately recognizable portraits. Check out the full series.

We caught up with Miller recently at his home and studio overlooking Smith Park on the city’s Near West Side where he had just flown back from a shoot in London and was heading out to the Caribbean the next day for a friend’s birthday party. Sandro ran down a number of his favorite places to eat, drink and, of course, see art and photography. Check out some of his work above as well as images of a few of his favorite spots.


  • Fatso’s Last Stand: I eat really healthy, but then have to fall way off the wagon sometimes. I’m a sucker for their shrimp po’boy – it’s better than anything I’ve ever had in New Orleans. It’s the sauce. The shrimp are big and chunky. It’s just made really well and it’s really fresh. You go in with a hangover and you eat one of those and you’re good to go. I’ll only go once a month – it’s my treat. 2258 W. Chicago.
  • Mirai Sushi: It’s a classic. [Owner] Miae [Lim] brings in the absolute best sushi in the city and tops in the country. She’s extremely picky and her chefs have been with her forever – they’re true sushi chefs. 2020 W. Division
  • Blackbird: I’m a big Donnie Madia fan –he’s a great guy and the best host in the city. You can’t wrong with Blackbird. Whenever I’m shooting for New York clients or New York friends I like to take them to Blackbird. 619 W. Randolph
  • Kai Zan: It’s just killing it. Great food. 2557 W. Chicago
  • J. Thai Street Food: It’s a new Thai place and I feel like it’s the best Thai I’ve ever had. It’s just sensational. They have the best sticky rice. 1715 W. Chicago
  • Beoufhaus: It’s just killer killer meats and an unbelievable Philly cheesesteak sandwich when I’m going for the junk food attack. 1012 N. Western


  • Violet Hour is on top. I’m a bourbon drinker and I let the mixologist just roll and do his thing. 1520 N. Damen
  • I hit Revolution when I want to drink some beers. 2323 N. Milwaukee
  • Rootstock: I love the boutique feeling. The food is really good. The vibe in there and the people are great. They have great wines. It’s a classy little place and I can crawl home. 954 N. California
  • The Matchbox is my favorite place. I like their margaritas but they also do a really good gimlet. 770 N. Milwaukee


  • Empty Bottle  for music and it’s a grungy place to go. I’ve been going there for 25 years and they bring some major bands in there. 1025 N. Western
  • Museum of Contemporary Photography  is my absolute favorite museum. It’s a fantastic museum. I’m on the board. They have my work in the museum, but I haven’t shown there. 600 S. Michigan
  • I love all of our museums – MCA, Art Institute and we have such a great gallery scene. Carl Hammer Gallery is one of the best in the county with primitive art. Intuit Gallery. Catherine Edelman – she represents me – has one of the best photo galleries in the country. I’m excited about the Kerry James Marshall show coming to the MCA. He paints his people black black black and it’s just great work. Nick Cave is one of my favorite artists in Chicago. Virginia Ferrari is wonderful sculptor. I love Hebru Brantley; I just shot him. Jeff Zimmerman does a lot of commissioned work.
  • Graham Thompson at Optimo Hats is my favorite hat maker in town. He’s one of the best in the country. Even if you don’t buy a hat, just to see his hats is amazing. I wear a lot of different hats and you feel something when you wear hat. It gives you a confidence level that soars above many people that you’re walking next to. For some reason people look at you because you’re wearing a hat. 320 S. Dearborn
  • City Winery has become my new go-to spot. I saw Alejandro Escovedo recently – I shot one of his album covers. I always see Poi Dog there. 1200 W. Randolph

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