Lee Miller, the model who jumped into the trench


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Perhaps that is why chance often played in his favor. She was going to cross a street in New York without paying attention to a truck that was heading towards her, when the arm of Mr. Condé Montrose Nast, founder of Vogue and Vanity Fair, saved her from being run over. It was 1926 and Lee was 19 years old . The following year would be cover under the illustration of George Lepape .

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Her cold and androgynous features made her the closest thing to a top model, and that involved working with photographers like Edward Steichen or George Hoyningen-Huene . But then the models had no control over their image, and one of Steichen's photographs was used without Lee's consent for an advertising campaign for compresses. There was a scandal and Lee's career vanished.

Lee en una sesión para Vogue

Read in a session for Vogue © Getty Images

She did not give excessive importance to the setback. Theodor Miller, his father, had always advocated that he devote his time to the same games as his two brothers. In the Poughkeepsie country setting that meant tree houses, toy trains and gadgets that revolved around Theodor's big hobby: photography . During his time as a model, Lee's interest was on the other side of the spotlights. The Kotex compress scandal broke the barrier.

Ten years before, a traumatic event had defined Lee's relationship with the camera. She was eight years old when, on a trip to New York, she was raped . The rapist transmitted gonorrhea. The pain, the shame and the sensation of dirt caused mood swings that worsened in adolescence.

Vogue / George Hoyningen-Huene

Lee Miller © Vogue / George Hoyningen-Huene

The psychiatric treatment was complemented with sessions in which, in the presence of his mother, Lee posed naked for Theodor . This peculiar form of reconciliation with his physicist established a vital and therapeutic link with the photographic process.

Therefore, when his modeling career ended, Lee was clear that his site was behind the goal . Attracted by the experimental surrealism of Man Ray, she showed up at her studio in Paris and offered to work with him. The artist not only agreed, but fell in love with her .

For five years she was his collaborator. The relationship was turbulent . To the conflict that caused the constant appropriation of his works, was added the struggle for an emotional independence that Lee had raised at the stroke of therapy .

Lee Miller o la belleza y locura de Man Ray

Lee Miller or the beauty and madness of Man Ray © Getty Images

The liberation of art was a masculine affair and the creators, with exceptions, remained in the background. In the same way, free love was an anti-bourgeois imperative that Man Ray practiced with enthusiasm, but that he did not see with good eyes in his partner. Lee did not yield . He enforced himself in the surreal circle and established a close relationship with Picasso, Paul Éluard and Jean Cocteau .

The latter offered to participate in his film The Blood of a Poet, in which it appears next to a plaster sculpture of itself.

The surreal aura favored the recognition of his work. In the International Photographers exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum he shared rooms with Cecil Beaton and Moholy-Nagy. But Lee was tired of the Parisian carousel and the altercations with Man Ray. In 1934 he brought his adventure with the Egyptian millionaire Eloui Bey to his final consequences and married him.

After his separation, the photographer created a metronome that includes the following legend:

Cut out the eye of someone you have loved and is no longer with you. Place it on the metronome pendulum and wait for it to reach the desired tempo. Take a hammer and destroy it with a blow.

Miller's years in Cairo left images of a marked surrealist style, but the desert and ruins eventually exhausted both his inspiration and his patience. When he returned to Paris three years later, Lee had become the myth of a languishing movement . It was then that he met Ronald Penrose, the English painter of Max Ernst's circle with whom he would share the rest of his life.

The war found them in London. During the Blitz, his house in Hampstead became one of the social centers of the city. Lee documented the effects of the bombings when the United States entered the contest. Despite the skepticism of the editor of Vogue, the photographer was credited and moved to France.

In Normandy lived the offensive that happened to the landing. He jumped from the hospitals to the front and was one of the first people of the Allied forces who entered the Dachau concentration camp . From there he went to Munich, where he settled in the house that had belonged to Hitler . He slept in his bed and took a picture in the bathtub.

According to David Sherman, the journalist who accompanied her those years, Lee lived a period of great plenitude during the war. Despite the horror that surrounded her, her talent grew in the movement, in the immediacy. He did not overcome the return to the routine. The attempts to return to normal collided with the hangover of the lived.

Motherhood did not help her overcome a depression that favored her dependence on alcohol. He retired with Melrose to a farm in Sussex, abandoned the photograph and directed his concern toward the kitchen. When Man Ray visited them, he offered him green chicken and blue macaroni.

Lee Miller, pura belleza

Lee Miller, pure beauty © Getty Images

Vogue / George Hoyningen-Huene

Lee Miller for Vogue © Vogue / George Hoyningen-Huene

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