Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

A Fiend Inside: Lee Miller

Another wonderful post on Faded + Blurred

A New York fashion model, a partner and muse to Man Ray, a fashion photographer, one of the first (and one of very few) photojournalists during the second world war, and a gourmet cook. To call Lee Miller a free spirit is an understatement. Her life was a composite of one adventure after another. “Being a great photojournalist,” she said, “is a matter of getting out on a damn limb and sawing it off behind you.” This seemed to be her philosophy of life as well, not just photography. Never one to sit still for long, she was always looking for the next thing and that next thing was never simple, but it was definitely always exciting.

“I looked like an angel, but I was a fiend inside.” – Lee Miller
Miller was born in Poughkeepsie, NY in 1907. She suffered the horrific trauma of being raped at age seven by a family friend, which left her with gonorrhea and years of treatment which was painful and invasive. This experience, as well as being photographed nude by her father from the age of eight all the way through her teens, had a tremendous effect on her and dramatically shaped who she was to become. Thankfully, she was able to escape her dysfunctional family life and move to New York City when she was just 20. It was there that she had a chance encounter which was to change her life.

While attempting to cross a street in midtown Manhattan, she was abruptly pulled out of the way of an oncoming truck by publisher Condé Nast. Nast was struck by her classic beauty and immediately took her on as a model for Vogue and, before she realized it, she was on the cover. This began a 30 year relationship with the magazine, although modeling for Miller did not last long. In 1929 she posed for the first photographic ad for Kotex. This caused such a controversy that the modeling calls quickly stopped coming. It was actually fairly good timing, however, because, typical of Miller, she was becoming bored with having to stand still all day while the camera was pointed at her. She decided she wanted to try her hand at being the one taking the pictures instead, so she packed her bags and moved to Paris…..READ MORE

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