” It seems to me that women have a bigger chance at success in Photography than men… Women are quicker and more adaptable than men. And I think they have an intuition that helps them understand personalities more quickly than men.” – Lee Miller
Elizabeth “Lee” Miller was born in Poughkeepsie, New York. Her father,Theodore Miller, was a mechanical engineer and an avid amateur photographer. He introduced his daughter to the craft of photography, teaching her the basics using his Kodak Brownie camera.
Theodore also took regular portraits of Miller throughout her early life. Along with taking photographs, she and her brothers enjoyed tinkering with machines to learn how things worked, and she had a mostly pleasant and privileged childhood in an upper-middle-class and progressive household. Her youth was marred, however, when she was raped by the guest of a family friend when she was seven. Scholars have frequently viewed her later photography through a lens tinted by this early trauma.
As a female artist, Lee Miller refused to be defined by her gender, beauty or age. Not content to be limited in her personal life or artistic practice, she was a model and muse to several of the great surrealists, a photographer, actor and one of the only female war correspondents to be credentialed during WWII.
She was a fiercely independent and bohemian woman when society was still deeply restricted by traditional gender roles, and her life and work is a staggeringly varied, innovative, and extraordinary story.
Miller’s artistic practice was grounded in the medium of photography, and her unique visual style documented the sights and landscapes she encountered on her travels around the world in a manner influenced by a Surrealist eye for the uncanny or strange. She also maintained a close relationship with many other artists, particularly those resident in pre-war Paris.
She performed in films by Jean Cocteau, was painted by Picasso and was muse to Man Ray during their time living together. After her experiences as a war correspondent she retired to her farm in Sussex (England) and was largely unremembered as an artist until after her death, when her son Antony Penrose rediscovered her archive. Through his establishment of the Lee Miller Archive she then began to be acknowledged as an important artist in relation to both the Surrealist movement and the development of photography as an art form.