Lee Miller

Mark Haworth-Booth “The Art of Lee Miller”  V&A Publications, London, 2007.

Born in 1907 Lee Miller led an extraordinary life. Her father was a keen photographer and she continued to pose nude for him well into her twenties. Over the course of her life she graduated from being a Vogue model to Vogue photographer, covering events in Europe as a war correspondent during the second world war. Her images of Buchenwald and Dachau are truly distressing .

Moving to Paris in 1929 she became Man Ray’s student and lover, collaborating with him to create surrealist images, he taught her dark room techniques showing her   “how to achieve a more engaging or surprising  result” pg 77. She “photographed Paris in many ways —–with amusement , pleasure, and lyricism , but also with the radical doubt of a surrealist” pg 56.During her time in Paris she worked as a medical photographer, two images taken by Miller are published for the first time in the book. A severed breast following a mastectomy is shown on a dinner plate, “cutlery is arranged for a meal” pg 88. Its an unpleasant image a reminder “that their author was a woman of remarkable daring and capable of challenging the most forbidding taboos” pg 88.

Moving to New York in 1932 she opened  a studio along with her brother. Following marriage in 1934 to an Egyptian she relocated to Cairo. The contact prints of street images taken there “show that , having no darkroom, she composed very precisely in the camera ” pg 122. Becoming dissatisfied with her life the book suggests images taken at this time by Miller reflect her feeling of being “trapped in Egypt” pg 124,using photography as a means to express her innermost thoughts and feelings. She left Egypt in 1939 to embark on yet another chapter of her life and begin an “artistic collaboration” pg 132 with her lover and second husband the artist  Roland Penrose  .

Following her war time exploits she became an alcoholic. Her son, born in 1947, “was later to appear in a Lee photograph in Edward Steichen’s epoch- making exhibition The Family of Man (1955)” pg 203. She moved with her family to Farley Farm, Sussex, in 1949 , where she began her final work  ” Working  Guests ” documenting her visitors activities.

She died in 1977 , a truly inspiring woman who contribued greatly to the art of surrealism .


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