Lee Miller

Dates1907 - 1977
RolesPhotographer
NationalityAmerican
BornPughkeepsie, New York, United States
DiedChiddingly, England

"I won't be the first woman journalist in Paris . . . but I'll be the first dame photographer, . . . unless someone parachutes in. . . . Anyway I guess I'm the only dame who's really covered a battle."

One would hardly guess that a woman famous for her beauty and her role as a fashion icon wrote these words, which clearly express pride at being the only female working as a war correspondent. It was the role Lee Miller, who described her passion for the job as a "taste for gunpowder," found most fulfilling, as it accommodated both her artistic impulses and her restless nature. Miller, one of the first American correspondents to photograph the horror at the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps, created images of war in which formalism, compassion, and wit are uniquely combined.

While in her twenties, Miller had a lucrative modeling career that put her before the cameras of Edward Steichen and Arnold Genthe. Through working with them and with other artists, she developed her own photography skills. After studying theatrical lighting and design, Miller relocated to Paris in late 1929, where she became the assistant, artistic collaborator, and lover of Man Ray, who was greatly inspired by her. He introduced her to artists and writers of the Surrealist movement, with whom she maintained lasting relationships even after her affair with Man Ray ended. While with Man Ray, Miller learned a great deal and received her own assignments for fashion photography from Vogue. At a Surrealist ball in 1937 she met the painter Roland Penrose; like Man Ray, Penrose found her inspirational. Miller ceased making pictures herself sometime after World War II, and married Penrose in 1946. She died in 1977, with all evidence of her extraordinary career packed in her attic.