View Full Version : Discuss a Lee Miller photograph

10-01-2006, 08:01 AM
This area seems to have gone a bit quiet recently, so I thought I'd kick another ball into the ring...

It's hard for me to know which Lee Miller to choose, there's so much - whether it's portraits, her documentary photographs of the war, her surrealist photos, and her fashion photography aswell.

This one is very well known, one of my favourites of all time - Portrait of Space 1930 (Egypt)

Portrait of Space 1930 (egypt) (http://www.photonet.org.uk/content/images/3_816_JH4Onbj518-324x324.jpg)

And another completely different one, and one I find very powerful if disturbing, the SS Prison Guard in this picture gallery...

SS Prison Guard etc. (http://arts.guardian.co.uk/gallery/0,8542,820967,00.html)

More can be found at www.leemiller.co.uk

Jim Chinn
10-01-2006, 08:43 AM
I am more familiar with her commercial/fashion work before the war. The first image is very much in the vein of the dadist/surrealist movement of the 20s. She was very much a part of that crowd.

The rough opening in the tent/netting material is nicely juxtaposed by the rigid, square frame of what I assume to be a mirror hanging from the same mesh.

It's one of those images that I can see myself lying down in the tent or sitting there, noticing the random arrangement of elements and deciding to expose a few frames just to see how it would look on film.

Is there a deep meaning there? I suppose in a daydream surrealist way there is. The fun thing is the finding of such relationships in the everyday.

The second image just does not interest me that much. I guess because it encompasses emotions and feelings that I can get in any news magazine or paper today and since I am bombarded with it 24/7, frankly it just leaves me numb.

John Bragg
10-01-2006, 08:58 AM
Hi Cate,

Good choice of Photographer for discussion. I had seen the prison guard before, and it is quite a disturbing image. It begs the question, was this revenge meted out by his former captives ?
The Portrait of space is just another exampe of how wide her subject matter was. I am more familiar with her portraits, fashion work, and war reporting. She was certainly not one of those photographers who are tied to only one genre, and it is difficult to pigeon hole her. I have liked her work for a long time and thank you for posting this.

Regards, John.

10-01-2006, 11:08 AM
Hi Cate,

Good choice of Photographer for discussion. I had seen the prison guard before, and it is quite a disturbing image. It begs the question, was this revenge meted out by his former captives ?
Regards, John.
Yes, I believe it was. I think why I find it disturbing is that it evokes unexpected emotions in me - pleasure that he has met with some revenge, and that the people who attacked him were able to survive and express it - and yet I am not a violent person and the wounds, and particularly his expression, are quite shocking also. Ultimately, I think, he was lucky to be alive. We don't know quite what he was responsible for, we can only assume. I think the challenge of the photo is it asks the question whether or not we have any sympathy for him on any level, when normally when we see someone in this condition, we would of course. There's a lot more of her war-time documentary that is equally powerful, perhaps a little less charged.

The tent I just love - layers of meaning, and feeling but expressed so simply. Worlds within worlds, interior and exterior space ....I don't know a lot about surrealism but the dreamlike effect (and use of the mirror) I think is important to it, but for me the image works very much regardless. Sorry this isn't a very good repro by the way, if you see a print in a book there's a lot of fine detail which makes it - the fragile cloth, the sand, the heat - you can see and feel it all.

Michel Hardy-Vallée
10-01-2006, 12:06 PM
Hi Cate, good choice about Lee Miller, I just read a review of her new bio in the London Review of Book and was thinking about posting one!

Marc Leest
10-01-2006, 01:15 PM
I have seen a lot of original work of Lee Miller. What a woman, before and behind the camera.
The photo I remember of her is the face of the dead Waffen-SS soldier, under water already showing signs of decomposition. Absolutely gruesome but the picture tells it all.

A funny picture of her is Lee Miller sitting in the bath of hitler ... :D

Her experiments with solarisation (inspired by Man Ray) are absolutely stunning.


Juraj Kovacik
10-01-2006, 01:31 PM
I like that Paris seirie, for example exploring hand...

10-01-2006, 02:14 PM
Just checked the date on the Portrait of Space (Siwa, Egypt) - got the date wrong, it was 1937, not 1930. Can't seem to edit my first post, for some reason...

10-02-2006, 04:12 AM
I have a book of Lee Miller prints and there are so many that are wonderful, but very few to find on-line. I draw the line at scanning from a book and posting - I don't know what other people feel about this.

One of my favourites is her portrait of Colette with paperweight and pen.

Here's one I can find that is interesting: 'Man Ray and Ady Fidelin; Mougins, France, 1937'. The print in the book is a good deal lighter and better quality, though, sorry.

Mougins 1937 (www.poster.net/miller-lee/miller-lee-picnic-2806242.jpg)

It reminds me of Manet's Dejeuner sur l'Herbe, though it's very different.

10-02-2006, 01:38 PM
I agree, excellent choice. I've always been fascinated by Lee Miller and her life and her artwork. I'm surprised no one have had done a movie about her (based on a true story...).
The "Portrait of Space" is such a delicate composition and there's a contemplative mood in this photograph, like a poem without words - just emotions.
The SS Prison Guard is quite disturbing picture, I agree. It makes me think of the victims of the war and evokes an sort of empathy, despite how evil they've been in their previous roles. This beaten man seem to have waken up and facing a new reality and a new world. More disturbing to me is another photograph on Lee Miller site, showing a SS prison guard doing a Hitler salute from his prison cell. Telling me more of the fanatism that infected the nazis.
In general, I'm very fond of Margareth Bourke-White and Lee Miller's way of photographing the WWII, they managed to convey the horror and the sorrow that comes with the war.

10-02-2006, 02:01 PM
Great photographer and an even greater life.


10-02-2006, 04:06 PM
Bought the book Lee Miller's War two weeks ago for £1.50 in a charity shop. I admire the woman's courage and skill with a camera, when I finish my time machine I will put her down in my diary for a dinner date.

wayne naughton
02-23-2009, 02:53 AM

Her experiments with solarisation (inspired by Man Ray) are absolutely stunning.


ripped off by Man Ray........