Friday, May 15, 2015

Lee Miller, Henry Moore

Lee Miller, Henry Moore, 1943

Lee Miller (1907-1977) was an American photographer and a fascinating cultural figure.  Born in Poughkeepsie, she began her career as a model, as I discussed yesterday.  Sadly Miller experienced sexual abuse when she was a child and then she was exploited by her father when she posed nude for him as a teenager. He also gave her some basic instruction in photography.  Her modeling career began when, at age nineteen, she was saved from walking in front of a car by Condé Nast.  She then appeared on the cover of Vogue in March of 1927, drawn as an iconic twenties flapper.  She became a highly sought after fashion model.  In 1929 she moved to Paris with the intention of becoming apprentice to Man Ray and joining the Surrealist movement.  At first Man Ray insisted that he did not take students, but of course he let her model for him and the two became lovers.  She soon started her own photography studio and the two began to collaborate, with Man Ray posing for Miller.  She became a successful Surrealist, producing images that are interesting and powerful, as well as becoming a core member of the movement's Paris circle.  When World War II broke out, Miller become a photojournalist for Vogue, documenting the Blitz.  She was then accredited into the armed forces as a war correspondent.  She produced some of the most powerful and recognizable images of the war, including the first use of napalm at St. Malco and the horrors of Buchenwald. After the war Miller suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome and struggled with drinking. She gave birth to her only child in 1947, which helped her begin to move on.  She and her husband bought a farm in East Sussex, which became a popular destination for artists such as Pablo Picasso, Jean Dubuffet, and Max Ernst.  She almost entirely gave up both photography and modeling.  Henry Moore was another artist who visited Miller's Farley Farm House.  He was a major British sculptor known for his large semi-abstract pieces, particularly reclining nudes, who became friendly with Miller in London during the Blitz.  In this photograph Miller captures him standing in the London Underground's Holborn station, being used as a bomb shelter.  We see the intensity of Moore and the scene around him with people crowded into the station.  Another shot from the same night shows the size of the station and the gaping cavern of the train tunnel. This compelling image expresses the fear and sadness of these people, and Moore's powerlessness, standing underground, waiting for the bombs to fall.

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