Women’s Art: Lee Miller

Tonight, as I was reading How to Impress A Hipster in an effort to either gain inspiration for writing or to avoid writing altogether, I came across a post on Lee Miller. Firstly, I was somewhat disturbed by how many of the hipster things that I loved. I guess I lose hipster creds for not really knowing who she was? But then I knew all the Bauhaus/Cabinet of Dr Caligari ones and I was a fan of Tom Waits before the y’all were born. Oh wait – boasting isn’t really hipster-ish, is it? ok maybe I fail at Hipsterdom. Why does that just make me happy?

Anyways, Lee Miller (this link takes you to her archive site). The name sounded vaguely familiar – something about a woman starting as an assistant to a Great Artist, maybe even actually being responsible for some of said Great Artist’s work, then going on to do her own amazing stuff which is quickly forgotten. Ah yes. Never happens to female artists at all. Instead, she tends to be reduced to the Great Artist’s Muse or some such (She has since been rediscovered, of course, and is no longer considered just some dudes’ muse). A surrealist photographer of the 30s and 40s, this “muse” was also the official war photographer for Vogue Magazine during WW2.

I would like to note that while looking for links to embed these photographs I came across a blog talking about a New Yorker article about Lee Miller. Apparently the first (main?) picture the magazine had was not any of her own work, but rather a topless photo of her taken by her then-lover Man Ray. Yeah. I guess Man Ray thought topless photos of women were really edgy, or something, or Artistic? Looks like even 1930s hipsters were also sexist wankers. Back to Miller! 

I love this one on the left. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the simplicity of it? There’s a kind of intimacy here, not in a weird leering sort of way that nudity can often be shown as, but a kind of realism. Her hand is not prettified and she’s not standing in some odd way with a cutesy little crook to her neck. She’s just scratching the back of her head. I think I also like how this shot invokes the tactile quality of scratching the back of your head, pulling your fingers through your hair.

 From a very quick skimming of what google brings up, I’d have to say that I think her war photography is the most interesting. But I did rather like this one, even though it appears to be a fashion shoot?

Hardie Amies Suit, London EnglandI think it’s the quality of light, in combination with her sadness.

I’m also quite fond of this one, below. The woman has this kind of relaxed, confident expression, despite the bullet holes in the window above her head.

Mlle Christiane Poignet, Law student

Know of any other great female photographers? Leave links in the comments!

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4 Responses to Women’s Art: Lee Miller

    • Crowfoot says:

      Yeah that one was tempting to include too! But googling Lee Miller gives lots of hits with that one, so I thought I’d go with the ones that effected me personally. But that photo of her bathing in his bathtub is really interesting. It’s like she’s totally pwning him, but in this subtle sort of way. At first you just see a woman’s head above an ordinary bathtub and you might think “why was this photo taken? it’s like something a friend took of another friend.” Then you might notice Hitler’s portrait on the side. I’m not very educated on art, being of the “I know what I like when I see it but I don’t always know why” school. I can be taken in by fancy lighting or odd angles – so this photo seems so mundane in it’s framing and lighting, but leads to a lot of interesting things?

  1. journalofthieves says:

    BUT do you know of her:
    http://journalofthieves.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/surreality-bites/

    I mean i think a forebear.

    • Crowfoot says:

      I don’t know Claude Cahun! Though I have a passing familiarity with Cindy Sherman. Some of her work was shown at a recent WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery (eloriane and I wrote about it here, here, and here). I quite like a lot of what I’ve been finding just through googling her. I think the exhibit didn’t really do her work justice, actually. But then, they were covering a lot of different people. They might have had only 3 or 4 of her stills. Thanks for reminding me of her and thanks for suggesting Cahun. She is like a forerunner of Sherman’s work. Very interesting stuff!

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