Lee Miller produced some of the most powerful photographs seen this century, from portraits of her friends such as Pablo Picasso, to her work as a correspondent with the US army in World War II. Beginning her own studio in Paris with artist Man Ray, she went on to work with Vogue, and in France, Egypt, and New York, being best remembered for her witty Surrealist images. Now Millers archives are set to be released online.
Many of the images will now be revealed in April. They contain images that have not been seen by the public, and will triple the number of images in circulation. 60,000 original negatives and 20,000 vintage prints along with contact sheets and original documents and manuscripts in the family collection and are carefully kept at her former home (now a living museum), Farley Farm House in East Sussex.
Richard Moss from Culture 24 reported this week; “Despite her current reputation as one of the major photographers of the 20th century, her son Antony Penrose admits to knowing “little about his mother or her career” during her lifetime. The vast majority of the negatives were found after her death, hidden away in boxes in the attic”.
“Our home, Farley Farm House had been filled with magical, kind and wonderful people who I later discovered were the leading artists of their day,” says Penrose. “But in this warm atmosphere my mother often seemed absent even when present.”
Miller’s now-famous wartime work resulted in her suffering severe post-traumatic stress disorder, which led to her sliding into alcoholism and depression.
“She had been relentlessly self-deprecating about her life, so I knew nothing of her multifaceted career as a supermodel, surrealist photographer and combat photojournalist,” adds Penrose, who has been instrumental in reviving her reputation.
Converted from the original negatives or vintage prints into digital format, the newly released pictures cover many aspects of a career which encompassed Surrealist experiments in 1920s Paris with Man Ray, three decades of fashion photography, acclaimed war photography and post-war celebrity shots for Vogue.
“The collating of her images has taken many years” says Penrose.“This is the exciting moment when we are able to realise our long-term objective as a family and are able to share thousands of her images – many never seen before – through our new website. “We hope it will be a valuable resource for publishers, researchers, picture editors and students worldwide.”
The Lee Miller Archives is a small privately run archive which is dedicated to conserving and publishing the work of Lee Miller. It supports itself entirely on the sale of rights and photographs produced from the original negatives printed by Carole Callow. Penrose Film Productions Ltd are the managing agents for the Lee Miller Archives.
Photo: Lee Miller By Man Ray