Lee Miller was a famous beauty
, who became a famous model
, which got her interested in photography
. She became a famous photographer
, and that led her to photojournalism
. Of course she became a famous photojournalist
during the War: she accompanied Allied troops into the liberation
of Paris then of Buchenwald
, and her searing images of that helped render it visible.
She was born in Poughkeepsie, NY, in 1907, and her modelling took her to Paris in 1929, where she worked with Man Ray. Together they accidentally discovered the process of solarisation, created by very quick exposures to light. Man Ray was also one or her famous lovers.
In 1939 when war broke out she was in Britain, so she stayed there, joining Vogue. Her earlier photography was of fashion but she moved into documentary and finally became a war correspondent. In the liberation of Paris she greeted her old friend Picasso. From Dachau she sent images of the massed skeletal corpses and prisoners, and of GIs aghast and uncomprehending. She cabled her editor: "I IMPLORE YOU TO BELIEVE THIS IS TRUE".
Her first marriage was in 1932, to an Egyptian; in 1947 she married the surrealist painter Roland Penrose. She and Penrose lived at 21 Downshire Hill, Hampstead between 1936 and 1947, then later in another house in the same street; but it was No. 21 that was marked with a blue plaque in June 2003. She died in 1977. A film is now to be made, with Nicole Kidman as Lee.
A string of tragedies fell across her life: raped at seven, and infected with syphilis. Her first lover drowned in a boating accident. Her modelling career began when Condé Nast rescued her from being almost run over in the streets of New York. The Egyptian lover she was later to marry summarily divorced his wife, who committed suicide; she and Lee were close friends too. Years, smoking, and drinking ravaged her.
She came to enjoy cooking a great deal. Sometimes she made surreal dishes such as blue spaghetti. But she also anonymously entered a recipe contest in Norway under multiple pseudonyms, and won first, second, and third prizes.
There's a website archive of her work at www.leemiller.co.uk.