Tuesday, August 10, 2010

here's to you, Ms. Miller

‘Self portrait in Headband, New York Studio, USA 1932’ by Lee Miller, copyright The Lee Miller Archives
I have had a passing interest in Lee Miller with several years now. She has always struck me as a particularly fascinating lady, possessing that rare and intoxicating blend of startling beauty and exceptional talent and intellect. Beginning her career as a successful model in New York in the 1920s, Miller would soon emerge as one of the forerunning surrealist photographers working alongside Man Ray and later became a renowned photojournalist working with Vogue during World War Two
Miller in Lanvin, Horst, Vogue 1931.

After a traumatic childhood (at seven Miller was raped by a family friend), the nineteen year old Lee was discovered by the founder of Vogue magazine, Conde Nast, and went on to become a supremely successful fashion model with her picture taken by the leading photographers of the day including Edward Steichen

Miller, Steichen, Vogue 1928.
In the late 1920s Miller went to live in Paris where she became photographic assistant, muse and lover to the surrealist artist and photographer Man Ray. Miller was an integral figure within the Parisian Surrealist circle becoming a celebrated artist in her own right. Indeed, Miller would go on to photograph such famous faces as Charlie Chaplin and Pablo Picasso and in turn, Miller was one of Picasso’s subjects. Later, Miller would marry British Surrealist artist and curator Roland Penrose.
  Lee Miller, Picasso, 1937 oil on canvas.
(what a bold, brilliant portrait this is!)
“Lee Miller was an American photographer whose beauty and charm captivated the Surrealist Group. She and her future husband Roland Penrose were friends of Picasso. While they were holidaying with Picasso in the south of France, the artist made five paintings of Lee Miller, all of which were done from memory and sketches. Penrose felt that it perfectly captured Miller’s vivid beauty and vitality. However the true test came when he showed it to his two-year-old son Tony for the first time - his instant cry of delight was ‘Mummy, Mummy.’” - Exhibition label (Source)
On the outbreak of World War Two, Miller was living in London and embarked upon a career as a photojournalist for Vogue magazine. Remarkably, Miller was the only official female photojournalist allowed into combat areas. Among her wartime subjects, Miller captured the Liberation of Paris, the Siege of St. Malo, Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps and the ‘kitsch banality’ of Hitler’s Munich flat. During this period Miller worked alongside Life Magazine photographer David E. Scherman.

Post WWII, Miller developed depression and resided in Sussex, England. Her son Anthony is largely responsible for continuing her legacy.

Miller was one of Steichen's favourite models, Vogue 1928.

Photojournalist John Phillips said of Miller "an American free spirit wrapped in the body of a Greek goddess."

For further wonderful images: The Lee Miller Archive

Sources : Style. com


Sarah said...

No way - I wrote a post about Lee Miller last month (though yours is much more comprehensive than mine)! I remember reading an interview with Anthony Penrose where he remembers how she channelled her surreal sense of humour into her clothing as well as photography and would sometimes go out with a toilet-roll holder as a hat! Bit o' weird trivia for you there.

Kat said...

Ah really Sarah! Must have a flick through your archives right away!
love the random fact there too!

Elle said...

Have to say one thing that struck me in a lot of these images is how sad her eyes are. It's intriguing and kind of endearing. Excellent post.