So, remember how I was super keen on the Man Ray exhibit at Legion of Honor? I went into it like, “Yay, Man Ray. Oh, they’ll have lots of stuff he did with Lee Miller as his model. And they’ll probably show some of his work influenced by his years of acute misery after (former lover) Miller left him. That will be cool.”
And so it was. But not for that reason at all. I have to say a hearty BRAVO to Legion, which I see as kind of a conservative institution to be honest, for destroying (I mean destroying in a good way!) this exhibit. Their approach was to subvert the long-standing UNtruth that Miller is significant only for her roles as model, muse, and lover of the great surrealist. And on that note, this post has nothing to do with Man Ray, and everything to do with Lee Miller.
The exhibit celebrated Miller as an artist in her own right, and a mutual collaborator with Man Ray. Legit, because let’s face it, she actually took many of the photographs that are today accredited to her male colleague. She also (along with Man Ray but whatever) pioneered the whole technique of surrealist photograms, or “solarization” photography. He of course named the form “rayographs,” but they easily could have been called “millergraphs,” right? Here are a couple of hers:
As Miller progressed from “student” to (artistic) “partner” of Man Ray, she created some truly unique photographs, which I actually like for ‘subtle surrealism’ for lack of a better term.
Finally, can we please, please talk about Lee Miller and WW2? Holy shit. First of all, she was one of the first women to ever brave combat lines as a war correspondent. I know I shouldn’t say it, but I’ll say it: this is even more impressive to me given that she started her career as a fashion model.
Working as a photojournalist in Germany, she captured some gruesome images that came to haunt her for the rest of her life, ultimately resulting in a downward spiral of depression and alcoholism. Here’s one of a Nazi girl who carried out a suicide pact with her family:
And here, my friends, is a wonderful photo of Lee Miller in (wait for it) Adolf Hitler’s bathtub: (Note the photo of the Fuhrer in the background!)
She even visited concentration camps, and well, let’s just say there are many more photographs of things like, you know, heaps of corpses, that I’m excluding from this post. (I have no objection, but srsly, sometimes my mom reads my blog, and WWII-history-enthusiast that she is, she doesn’t want to see that.)
So instead, Miller (at the bottom there) with Man Ray and friends including surrealist Max Ernst:
That’s pretty much all I’ve got. Fuck yeah, Lee Miller. Check out the exhibition- it goes until October.