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Publication: Becoming Sisters
© Solarised Portrait(thought to be Meret Oppenheim), Paris, France, 1932 by Lee Miller (NC0058-5) © Lee Miller Archives England 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Exhibit Showcasing Legendary Photographer's Ties to Surrealist Movement

Christina Santucci
Christina Santucci
+February 09, 2022
An exhibition at The Dalí museum in St. Petersburg, Florida explored the work and life of Lee Miller, whose prolific photography career during the mid-20th century ranged from fashion to portraiture to wartime photojournalism.

More than 130 of Miller's photographs were included in the show, The Woman Who Broke Boundaries: Photographer Lee Miller, which was slated to run through January 2.

"While [visitors] may know her name, they may not know the extraordinary range of her photographic achievement. It is our pleasure to share that with the audience," said William Jeffett, the exhibit's curator.

Miller was initially discovered as a model by Condé Nast, the owner of Vogue magazine, when he purportedly pulled her from the path of an oncoming car and put her on the cover of his magazine at age 19.

She later stepped behind the camera to create the fashion photographs that graced Vogue's layouts. Between 1940 and 1944, when Miller left Paris to go cover World War II, she produced more than 400 pages of fashion images, the Telegraph reported.

During the war, Miller became an accredited correspondent with the U.S. Army, and according to Reuters, she was the only female combat photographer working in Europe during WWII.

One of Miller's most notable photographs is one she took of herself taking a bath in Adolf Hitler's tub on the day his suicide was announced. Her combat boots had been placed on the bathmat, which was stained with "the dust of Dachau," according to her biography posted by the Lee Miller Archives.

"She was always very adventuresome in her life and her work as well," Jeffet said.
FFU image
© Picnic, lle St Marguerite, (Nuschand Paul Éluard, Roland Penrose,Man Ray, Ady Fidelin, Cannes,France 1937 by Lee Miller (P0146)© Lee Miller Archives England2020.All Rights Reserve
But, for The Woman Who Broke Boundaries: Photographer Lee Miller, organizers mainly sought to explore Miller's contributions and connections to the Surrealist art movement, as she had sustained relationships with renowned artists and writers, such as Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso and Man Ray.

"Equally unconventional and ambitious, Lee Miller continually reinvented herself, much like the artists she lived among and photographed," said Dr. Hank Hine, executive director of The Dalí, in a statement.

These figures, the majority of whom associated with the Surrealist movement in Paris, weren't just Miller's acquaintances, but rather people she stayed close with for years.

Described as muse to Man Ray, Miller had begun as his apprentice. The two later became lovers and collaborated on work together, developing the photographic process of solarization. The technique - which involves exposing a partially developed photograph to light, then continuing the developing process - creates a halo-like effect.

Miller also photographed Picasso and Dalí, and The Dalí's show includes a photograph of Miller and Picasso in his studio after the liberation of Paris in 1944 (below), as well as an image of Dalí and his wife, Gala.
FFU image
© Picasso and Lee Miller in his studio, Liberation of Paris, Rue des Grands-Augustins, Paris, France 1944 by Lee Miller (NC0002 1) © Lee Miller Archives England 2020. All Rights Reserved.
"With a wry Surrealist quality, her work intimately captured a range of people and historical moments; however, the passion, intensity and restlessness of the woman behind the camera tells the most extraordinary stories," Hine said in the statement.

The Dalí's exhibition also featured a selection of Miller's self-portraits, images captured during the liberation of Paris and Germany at the end of WWII and works demonstrating technical advancements in the photographic medium.

For those unable to travel to St. Petersburg, Fla. to see the exhibit at The Dalí, Miller's work is also slated to be featured in the show, Surrealism Beyond Borders, which opens on February 24 at the Tate Modern in London, and a biopic about her life is expected to begin production this year.
Christina Santucci
Christina Santucci

Christina is a New York based assignment and photo editor. A longtime photojournalist, she has compl...

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