HW 10

Homework 10 is now posted in the Assignments tab. Actually, it’s been there for a while but I wanted to give it some time to get used to its new surroundings before y’all descend upon it like vultures on carrion.

All right, so I wrote this whole big thing about Lee Miller, and then accidentally double-finger swiped back on my trackpad and lost it all, so I’m pretty bummed. I’ll try to recreate it. Lee Miller is one of the dopest people to come out of my hometown of Poughkeepsie, NY. She began her career as a model after being discovered in New York City by none other than Condé Nast himself (apparently he stopped her from walking out in front of an oncoming car). She was on the cover of Nast’s Vogue magazine in 1927 at the age of 19, but her modelling career was cut short the next year when she appeared in a controversial advertisement for mensturation pads. No matter, though, to Lee. She moved to Paris in 1929 to become an apprentice to the famed Surrealist photographer Man Ray. You may recognize his “Le Violon d’Ingres”, or “Les Larmes” (“Tears” aka “Glass Tears”):

violon  larmes

“Glass Tears” is notable for being the first photograph to sell for over a million dollars. I was eleven at the time, but I remember reading about it and being like “daaaamn! that’s dough tho for a photograph!”

Although Man Ray didn’t know Miller and had not planned on taking on any apprentices, he eventually came around, presumably after realizing how talented she was, and how much of a babe. They were collaborators for a few years, producing many striking images, including some that revitalized the then-forgotten technique of solarisation; this picture of Miller is an exemplar of the style:


Though Man Ray is still the far more famous artist, theirs was a true partnership, and apparently many “Man Ray” photographs from this period were actually taken by her. She eventually got tired of killing the game and doing hoodrat stuff with her friends (Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, that whole crew) in Paris and returned to NYC to open her own studio. After hustling hard and making that paper for a couple of years she married an Egyptian businessman and was off to Cairo for a few years. But I guess Cairo gets old, too, so after a few more years she was back in Paris, where she met her next beau, a British artist named Ronald Penrose. She had moved to England with Penrose by the time World War II broke out, and rather than return home to the States, she became a war correspondent for Condé Nast publications, taking photographs all over Europe, including in the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau. She often collaborated with the LIFE photographer David Scherman, and one image that came out of that fruitful partnership is this one of her in Hitler’s bathtub in Munich:


Clearly she was much more than just a beautiful face. Unfortunately, she suffered from PTSD from the horrors she had witnessed, and struggled with depression for the remainder of her life. She continued to shoot occasionally for Vogue, though, and her English country house became a gathering place of sorts for all sorts of famous artists (e.g. Jean Dubuffet, Henry Moore, etc). She died in 1977, and her son Antony Penrose has been her strongest champion since then, publishing the first biography of her and leading tours of her house in England.

“It’s easy to sit there and say you’d like to have more money. And I guess that’s what I like about it. It’s easy. Just sitting there, rocking back and forth, wanting that money.”


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