One of the most enduring icons of the 20th century, American-born Lee Miller found fame as a model, photographer, surrealist, and war correspondent, who was present at the liberation of the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps. Famously discovered by Condé Montrose Nast himself, as he stopped her walking in front of a car in Manhattan at age 19, she went on to become one of the most sought after models of her day, before her interest moved to working behind the camera. In 1929 Lee travelled to Paris to convince a reluctant Man Ray to take her on as a student. There she grew heavily involved in the surrealist movement, becoming Man Ray’s muse and lover, and counting Pablo Picasso, Paul Éluard, and Jean Cocteau amongst her circle.
While Miller’s photographic work – both professional and artistic – has been heavily documented, a new book focuses primarily on her work as a fashion photographer. “For as Miller has been posthumously recuperated as an artist,” writes Becky E. Conekin in the preface to Lee Miller in Fashion, “her relationship with Vogue and her fashion photography have slipped from view.” Conekin, a fashion historian, theorist and writer, aims to bring this aspect of Miller’s long career back into clear view.
"As Miller has been posthumously recuperated as an artist, her relationship with Vogue and her fashion photography have slipped from view"
With photos that Miller took over twenty years for American, British, and French editions of Vogue, as well as previously unseen photos and contact sheets salvaged by her son, Antony Penrose, from Vogue’s London offices, this comprehensive study offers a new dimension to Miller’s extensive body of images, highlighting the crossovers between her artistic and commercial work, as well as the influence of World War Two on her output. “Photographing in Vogue Studios, as well as in museums, art galleries, and outdoors, Miller did the best she could with the practical wartime dresses, hats, shoes, and suits that she was asked to photograph… With so many British women involved in official war work, Miller also frequently photographed women in uniform and other workwear for British Vogue.”
Also included are classic images of Miller herself, lounging topless at a surrealist picnic, in a self-portrait taken at Picasso’s studio, and pregnant with her first child at age 46, with her third husband, English painter and poet Roland Penrose.
Nearly all the images in the book are currently held at Miller’s final home, Farley Farm in East Sussex, England, which houses the Lee Miller Archives.
Text by Ananda Pellerin
Ananda Pellerin is a London-based writer and regular contributor to anothermag.com.