Dreams of Desire 35 (Lee Miller by Lee Miller)

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Lee Miller-Self Portrait 1933

When British Vogue sent staff over to Man Ray’s Montparnasse studio in 1929 they were greeted by his new assistant, who was also doubling up as his receptionist, Lee Miller. She was ‘…a vision so lovely they forgot why they had come.’

Lee Miller had left her very successful modelling career in New York at the age of 21 to become a photographer in Paris, then the centre of the art world. She had set her sights on learning the craft from her fellow American, the pioneering photographer, film-maker and painter Man Ray. Approaching him in a cafe she told him her name and that she was his new student. Man Ray answered that he didn’t take students and besides he was going to Biarritz the next day. Miller answered that is where she was going too. Man Ray, unsurprisingly, was captivated and they did indeed go to Biarritz, the start of an incredibly intense artistic and romantic relationship.

Man Ray soon realised her talent and their artistic relationship was reciprocal. It was Miller who, by letting in the light on the darkroom, discovered the technique of solarization (see Dreams of Desire 31 (Solarization)) that became a Man Ray trademark. In fact it is hard sometimes to distinguish their work from this period apart, as Miller herself commented, “We were almost the same person when we were working.”

Self Portrait is from the period immediately after the bitter break-up of 1932 (see Dreams of Desire 12 (The Lovers)). The classical pose generates a muscular tension that accentuates her astounding beauty. As an aside, there exists a brand of champagne glass shaped from a mould of Miller’s left breast.

 

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51 thoughts on “Dreams of Desire 35 (Lee Miller by Lee Miller)

    1. Sorry for the delay in replying, your message was sent to spam. Well if you want to know more i can tell you what I know. I am fascinated by both Lee Miller and Man Ray. thanks for the kind comments.

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  1. She really is stunning. And how cool that she was responsible although inadvertently for the solarization effect. That’s an interesting little detail – about the champagne glass. Imagine having champagne with Lee Miller… how could you possibly keep your eye from wandering south?

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      1. It takes a healthy dose of self confidence to share a selfie like that. Good for her! By the way, I was reading your comments to Roger on Tempting Fate. My cat is a feral who, as a kitten, barged her way into my heart. From inauspicious beginnings, she now rules the house!

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      2. I truly understand! I have so many writing irons in the fire it’s ridiculous. Which is why NaNoWriMo (I hate that term, I cringe whenever I type it…) will force me to concentrate on one thing. You know, it’s not too late for you to join me……

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  2. Beautiful post Mr. Cake. Lee Miller, such a stunner. How can anyone think of Lee Miller without thinking of Man Ray? They’re like salt and pepper. Anyway, a wonderful photo, she certainly showed the world she was more than just a pretty face and body. ~ Miss Cranes

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      1. Mr. Cake, I believe you’re aware that some remarkable photos by Miller were found in the attic after her death, we may have even discussed it. She truly had a wonderful eye, capturing both incredibly beautiful and unbelievably tragic images.

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      2. Yes, it lead her son to totally re-evaluate his mother who he had no idea was involved in the arts, he had only known her as a depressed drunk (sad but true) and he wrote her biography called the lives of lee Miller, clever title as she was more than one person in a way.

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      3. More than one person in so many ways. You know Mr. Cake, I love the Ray-Miller photos that everyone expects, but some of my favorite photos are the ones that Miller had taken, capturing the idea of being human. I think the masses have no idea how very complex she is/was, and truly, truly, what a fantastic artist and remarkable individual she was. Sadly, she is remembered for her postwar years, I dare anyone to see the atrocities she did through the lens of a camera and NOT be forever changed. I’ve often thought of doing a post on this topic, but I know I could never do it justice.

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  3. Lovely photo, as everyone says. I have several pairs of champagne glasses (one each for Clare and me). My favourite pair is a deep green crystal pair that I bought for my mother, years ago, when we lived in Cardiff (Caer Dydd, indeed, boyo). They are glasses rather than flutes. We have different ones on different occasions. As for the writing: keep going, both of you (Meg and Mr. Cake). You are both talented, too talented to waste those talents. Your surrealist series is already a book, Mr. Cake, and a very fine one, incidentally. Best wishes to both.

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      1. As I wrote, I think you have a fine surrealist study and collection there. I have been encouraged to post my cartoons (I am only scratching the surface with what I have posted thus far) as a separate collection to go with the poetry. I am certainly considering this. Being mine, there are no copyright issues. Yours is a great introduction to surrealism.

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  4. Wonderful self-portrait. In my mind, I am imagining her setting up for it, wondering how many she had to take to get this one, and visualizing her right after it was taken. So often, we get stuck in the one image and forget that there was motion and sound throughout. 🙂

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