Last Updated August 29, 2018

Lee Miller

USA (Born 1907 - Died 1977 ) PREMIUM LISTING
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DESCRIPTION / BIOGRAPHY
Lee Miller was a fashion model, artist’s muse, fashion photographer and war correspondent. Photographically she is best known for her artistic collaboration with the surrealist-influenced artist and photographer Man Ray, and for the images she took of the Blitz in London, and in Europe during and after the Second World War.

As an artist’s muse and model she inspired artists including Man Ray, Pablo Picasso and Roland Penrose. Her artistic friendship with Man Ray quickly became an affair in Paris during the 1920s. Together they worked on photographic projects such as mastering solarisation. However Man Ray’s already-established career meant that his solarised images became famous and Miller’s were somewhat sidelined.

Miller was born in 1907 in New York. Her father introduced her and her brothers to photography at an early age. Aged 19 she started modelling in New York and in the following years was one of the most sought after models in the city – photographed by great photographers of the day including Edward Steichen, Arnold Genthe, Nickolas Muray and George Hoyningen-Huene.

In 1929 Miller travelled to Paris with the intention of apprenticing herself to the well known surrealist artist and photographer Man Ray.

Here she began a relationship with Ray, and succeeded in establishing her own portraitist and fashion photography studio, as well as working with Ray in developing the photographic technique of solarisation.

Miller returned to New York in 1932, and again set up her own studio which ran for 2 years and was highly successful. This closed when she married an Egyptian businessman Aziz Eloui Bey and went to live with him in Cairo, Egypt. Although she did not work as a professional photographer during this period, the photographs she took while living in Egypt with Eloui, including Portrait of Space, are regarded as some of her most striking surrealist images.

During a visit to Paris in 1937 she met Roland Penrose, a British surrealist painter, whom she later would marry.

At the outbreak of World War II, Miller was living in London with Penrose when the bombing of the city began. Miller embarked on a new career in photojournalism as the official war photographer for Vogue, documenting the Blitz. She was accredited into the U.S. Army as a war correspondent for Condé Nast Publications from December 1942. She teamed up with the American photographer David E. Scherman, a Life correspondent on many assignments.

She travelled to France less than a month after D-Day and recorded the first use of napalm at the siege of St. Malo, as well as the liberation of Paris, the Battle of Alsace, and the horror of the Nazi concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau. A photograph by Scherman of Miller in the bathtub, with a shower hose looped in the center behind her head, recollecting a noose, taken at Adolf Hitler's apartment in Munich is one of the most iconic images from the Miller–Scherman partnership.

After the war she continued to contribute to Vogue for a further 2 years, covering fashion and celebrities, but after returning to Britain from Europe Miller started to suffer from severe episodes of clinical depression, and what we now know as Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In 1947 she married Penrose and in 1949, the couple bought Farley Farm House in Chiddingly, East Sussex, UK. During the 1950s and 1960s, this became a sort of artistic Mecca for visiting artists such as Picasso, Ray, and Henry Moore.

Lee Miller died at Farleys in 1977.

Throughout her life, Miller did little to promote her own photographic work, and since her death her son, Antony Penrose, has been conserving, and promoting his mother's work. In the process he discovered around sixty thousand photographs and negatives in Farley Farm's attic. Many of these pictures are accessible online at the Lee Miller Archive – see the link above.

Farley Farm House, the former home of Lee Miller and Sir Roland Penrose, is managed by the Penrose family as a privately run archive and museum. It is open every Sunday from 1 April to 28 October 2018.