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Lee Miller (April 23, 1907 – July 21, 1977) was an American photographer and photojournalist  who challenged her contemporary ideas of gender, beauty or age. Often recognized as  a model and a “muse” to several great artists, including Picasso, Man Ray, and Jean Cocteau, Miller was a fiercely independent artist, photographer, actor and one of very few war correspondents credentialed during WWII.  She was a fashion model in New York City in the 1920s before going to Paris, where she became a fashion and fine art photographer. During the Second World War, she was a war correspondent for Vogue, covering events such as the London Blitz, the liberation of Paris, and the concentration camps at Buchenwald and DachauAlmost forgotten for many years and overshadowed by male artists, her work has currently begun to get due recognition. 

On Dec 7 at 7pm, the Livingston Public Library presents “ Lee Miller: From Fashion Model To War Photographer.”

This illustrated talk by presenter Joanna Madloch covers Lee Miller’s biography, from her unconventional childhood and youth to her unorthodox marriage and family relation, however it concentrates mostly on her development as a photographer who confronted both societal and artistic norms of her time. Madloch’s visual presentation of Miller’s work offers the participants a comprehensive review of the photographer’s style and achievements. 

The talk  pays special attention to the discovery of Miller’s work and her transformation into a popular icon, a character featured in historical fiction, and even a heroine of a musical. The movie titled Lee, directed by Ellen Kuras and starring Kate Winslet as Lee Miller and based on the recently released book The Lives of Lee Miller by her son Antony Penrose (a copy is on order for the Library) is set to premiere at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival on 9 September 2023.

Here are some books that illuminate this uniquely talented artist from different perspectives, portray some of the dynamic artists in her circle, as well as books on other trailblazing war photographers.

age of light
age of light

The Age of Light: A Novel by Whitney Scharer

This richly detailed novel tells the story of Vogue model turned renowned photographer Lee Miller, and her search to forge a new identity as an artist after a life spent as a muse. “I’d rather take a photograph than be one,” she declares after she arrives in Paris in 1929, where she soon catches the eye of the famous Surrealist Man Ray. Though he wants to use her only as a model, Lee convinces him to take her on as his assistant and teach her everything he knows. But Man Ray turns out to be an egotistical, charismatic force, and as they work together in the darkroom, their personal and professional lives become intimately entwined, changing the course of Lee’s life forever. Lee’s journey takes us from the cabarets of bohemian Paris to the battlefields of war-torn Europe during WWII, from discovering radical new photography techniques to documenting the liberation of the concentration camps as one of the first female war correspondents. Through it all, Lee must grapple with the question of whether it’s possible to reconcile romantic desire with artistic ambition-and what she will have to sacrifice to do so. 

Close Up On War by Mary Cronk Farrell

The story of French-born Catherine Leroy, one of the Vietnam War’s few woman photographers, who documented some of the fiercest fighting in the 20-year conflict. Despite being told that women didn’t belong in a “man’s world,” she was cool under fire, gravitated toward the thickest battles, went along on the soldiers’ slogs through the heat and mud of the jungle, crawled through rice paddies, and became the only official photojournalist to parachute into combat with American soldiers. Later, Leroy was gravely wounded from shrapnel, but that didn’t keep her down more than a month. When captured by the North Vietnamese in 1968, she talked herself free after photographing her captors, scoring a cover story in Life magazine. A recipient of the George Polk Award, one of the most prestigious awards in journalism, Leroy was one of the most well-known photographers in the world during her time. 

The Correspondents : Six Women Writers Who Went to War by Judith Mackrell

On the front lines of the Second World War, a contingent of female journalists were bravely waging their own battle. Barred from combat zones and faced with entrenched prejudice and bureaucratic restrictions, these women were forced to fight for the right to work on equal terms with men. This book follows six remarkable women as their lives and careers intertwined: Martha Gellhorn, who got the scoop on Ernest Hemingway on D-Day by traveling to Normandy as a stowaway on a Red Cross ship; Lee Miller, who went from being a Vogue cover model to the magazine’s official war correspondent; Sigrid Schultz, who hid her Jewish identity and risked her life by reporting on the Nazi regime; Virginia Cowles, a “society girl columnist” turned combat reporter; Clare Hollingworth, the first English journalist to break the news of World War II; and Helen Kirkpatrick, the first woman to report from an Allied war zone with equal privileges to men.

Elsa Schiaparelli : a Biography by Meryle Secrest

Miller photographed dynamic and tenacious couturier Schiaparelli.  Her style was a social revolution through clothing–luxurious, eccentric, ironic, sexy.  She collaborated with some of the greatest artists of the twentieth century: on jewelry designs with Jean Schlumberger; on clothes with Salvador Dalí (his lobster dress for her, a lobster garnished with parsley painted on the skirt of an organdy dress, was instantly bought by Wallis Simpson for her honeymoon with the Duke of Windsor); with Jean Cocteau, Alberto Giacometti, Christian Bérard, photographers Baron Adolph de Meyer, Horst, Cecil Beaton, and the young Richard Avedon.  As Secrest traces the unfolding of this dazzling career, she reveals the spirit that gave shape to this large and extravagant life, a woman–a force–whose artistic vision forever changed the face of fashion and redefined the boundaries of art.

Farewell to the Muse : Love, War and the Women of Surrealism by Whitney Chadwick

Focusing on the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, Whitney Chadwick charts five intense, far-reaching female friendships among the surrealists to show how surrealism and the experiences of war, loss and trauma shaped individual women’s transitions from beloved muses to mature artists. Her vivid account includes the fascinating story of Claude Cahun and Suzanne Malherbe’s subversive activities in occupied Jersey, as well as the experiences of Lee Miller and Valentine Penrose at the frontline.

First to the Front the Untold Story of Dickey Chapelle, Trailblazing Female War Correspondent by Lorissa Rinehart

From the beginning of World War II through the early days of Vietnam, groundbreaking female photojournalist and war correspondent Dickey Chapelle chased dangerous assignments her male colleagues wouldn’t touch, pioneering a radical style of reporting that focused on the humanity of the oppressed. She documented conditions across Eastern Europe in the wake of the second world war. She marched down the Ho Chi Minh Trail with the South Vietnamese Army and across the Sierra Maestra Mountains with Castro. She was the first reporter accredited with the Algerian Revolutionary Army, and survived torture in a communist Hungarian prison. She dove out of planes, faked her own kidnapping, and endured the mockery of male associates, before ultimately dying on assignment in Vietnam with the Marines in 1965, the first American woman killed in combat. Chapelle overcame discrimination and abuse, both on the battlefield and at home, with much of her work ultimately buried from the public eye-until now.

french photographer

The French Photographer by Natasha Lester

Inspired by the incredible true story of Lee Miller, Vogue model turned one of the first female war photojournalists. Manhattan, Paris, 1942: When Jessica May’s successful modeling career is abruptly cut short, she is assigned to the war in Europe as a photojournalist for Vogue. But when she arrives the army men make her life as difficult as possible. Three friendships change that: journalist Martha Gellhorn encourages Jess to bend the rules, paratrooper Dan Hallworth takes her to places to shoot pictures and write stories that matter, and a little girl, Victorine, who has grown up in a field hospital, shows her love. But success comes at a price. France, 2005: Australian curator D’Arcy Hallworth arrives at a beautiful chateau to manage a famous collection of photographs. What begins as just another job becomes far more disquieting as D’Arcy uncovers the true identity of the mysterious photographer — and realizes that she is connected to D’Arcy’s own mother, Victorine.

In Montparnasse : the Emergence of Surrealism in Paris, from Duchamp to Dali by Sue Roe

During the 1920s, in the Parisian neighborhood of Montparnasse, a unique flowering of avant-garde artistic creativity became the cradle of Dada and Surrealism. In this crowd biography, Sue Roe tells the story – from Duchamp to Dali, via Man Ray and Max Ernst – of the salons and cafes, alliances and feuds, love affairs and scandals, successes and suicides of one of the most important and long-lasting artistic achievements of the twentieth century.

It’s What I Do : a Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario

Addario was just finding her way as a young photographer when September 11 changed the world. One of the few photojournalists with experience in Afghanistan, she gets the call to return and cover the American invasion. She makes a decision she would often find herself making — not to stay home, not to lead a quiet or predictable life, but to set out across the world, face the chaos of crisis, and make a name for herself. Addario finds a way to travel with a purpose. She photographs the Afghan people before and after the Taliban reign, the civilian casualties and misunderstood insurgents of the Iraq War, as well as the burned villages and countless dead in Darfur. She exposes a culture of violence against women in the Congo and tells the riveting story of her headline-making kidnapping by pro-Qaddafi forces in the Libyan civil war. Addario takes bravery for granted but she is not fearless. She uses her fear and it creates empathy; it is that feeling, that empathy, that is essential to her work. 

Lee Miller : a Life by Carolyn Burke

Burke reveals Miller as a multifaceted woman: both model and photographer, muse and reporter, sexual adventurer and mother, and, in later years, gourmet cook—the last of the many dramatic transformations she underwent during her lifetime. 

Lee Miller : A Woman’s War by Hilary Roberts

Published to coincide with an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, this book tells the story beyond the battlefields of the Second World War by way of Miller’s extraordinary photographs of the women whose lives were affected. Introductions by Hilary Roberts and Antony Penrose, Miller’s son, precede Miller’s work, which is divided into chronological chapters. Miller’s photographs, many previously unpublished, are accompanied by extended captions that place the images within the context of women’s roles within the landscape of war.

Lee Miller : Photographs by Antony Penrose

This evocative book collects Lee Miller’s most famous documentary, fashion, and war works, as well as photographs of Miller, all carefully compiled by her son the photographer Antony Penrose, with a foreword by actress Kate Winslet, who will star as Miller in the film Lee.

portraits from a life

Lee Miller : Portraits From a Life by Lee Miller

The photographs include not only Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Dora Maar, Igor Stravinsky, Henry Moore, Colette, Marlene Dietrich, Fred Astaire and a host of others, but also pictures of unsung individuals engaged in war work. Most memorable of all are Miller’s pictures of victims and perpetrators of Nazi oppression – some of the most powerful images from the last century. These brilliant portraits are shown together for the first time. Throughout the book, Calvocoressi demonstrates the originality and artistry of the photographer’s work, while exploring the relationship between the photographs and Lee Miller’s fascinating life. 

Lee Miller In Fashion by Becky Conekin

Lee Miller was a Vogue cover girl, Man Ray’s lover, the first photojournalist at the liberation of Dachau and Buchenwald, and one of the most important female photographers of the 20th century. Combining fine art and urban wit, her photographic technique was learned from the great photographers of her day, among them are Edward Steichen, Man Ray and George Hoyningen-Huene. This book gives us a wide lens view on Miller’s fashion photography. Set against the fast-changing landscapes of New York, Paris, and London, it reveals a neglected chapter in Miller’s life: how this incredible woman challenged conventions and broke boundaries in her fashion photography for the leading magazines of the day. Using never-before-seen photographs and archival research, Conekin shows how Miller’s fashion photographs were a brilliant combination of sharp wit, high art and modernist edge.

The Lives of Lee Miller by Anthony Penrose

Collected in this compelling volume are the many lives of Lee Miller, intimately recorded by her son, Antony Penrose, whose years of work on her photographic archives have unearthed a rich selection of her finest work, including portraits of her friends Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Max Ernst, Paul Eluard, and Joan Miro. Starting in 1927 in New York, this volume chronicles Lee Miller as she is discovered as a model by Conde Nast, hits the cover of Vogue, and is immortalized by Edward Steichen, George Hoyningen-Huene, Horst P. Horst, and other acclaimed photographers. From there, readers follow Miller to Paris where she, along with Man Ray, invented the solarization technique of photography, and where she developed into a brilliant Surrealist photographer. Finally, this account covers the later chapters of her life, when she became a war correspondent during World War II, traveling with the Allied armies to cover the siege of Saint-Malo and the liberation of Paris, which lead to her photographs of the Dachau concentration camp that shocked the world.

The Woman in the Photograph by Dana Gynther

Set in the romantic glow of 1920s Paris, a captivating novel of New York socialite and model Lee Miller, whose glamorous looks and joie de vivre caught the eye of Man Ray, one of the twentieth century’s defining photographers.1929, Montparnasse. Model and woman about town Lee Miller moves to Paris determined to make herself known amidst the giddy circle of celebrated artists, authors, and photographers currently holding court in the city. She seeks out the charming, charismatic artist Man Ray to become his assistant but soon becomes much more than that: his model, his lover, his muse. Coming into her own more fully every day, Lee models, begins working on her own projects, and even stars in a film, provoking the jealousy of the older and possessive Man Ray. Drinking and carousing is the order of the day, but while hobnobbing with the likes of Picasso and Charlie Chaplin, she also falls in love with the art of photography and finds that her own vision can no longer come second to her mentor’s.  This is a richly drawn, tempestuous novel about a talented and fearless young woman caught up in one of the most fascinating times of the twentieth century.

Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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