Lee Miller : photographer of war / by Caitlin S. Davis.
This dissertation examines and places in a new context the photographic output of Lee Miller during World War II (1939-1945). Miller's wartime photographs, analyzed in-depth for the first time within this study, formulate an integral statement by an artist who viewed the canvas of war through Surrealist eyes and documented the event with photographs and essays. Miller created an entirely new genre of photograph that combined the documentary aspects of photojournalism with the artistic aspects of Surrealism.The melange formed by Miller's temperament, artistic background and training, personal relationships, as well as the fact that she photographed for elite Vogue magazine, rather than an arm of the "hard news" media, influenced the nature of her documents of the Second World War. These photographs exist simultaneously as photoreportage and Surrealist art; accurate representations of the reality of war, yet also carefully selected vignettes providing ambiguous and evocative statements. Miller's ideas were coded within the images and essays she sent from embattled Europe to be published within the pages of Vogue for upper-class women to read along with fashion advice and advertisements for beauty products. This specific placement appended an additional level of Surrealism to Miller's work, transforming the whole of Vogue magazine into a Surrealist piece for the duration of the war. Miller's documentation of the war began in the besieged city of London, continued over the battlefields of Europe, and ended in the concentration camps in Germany. The originality of her photographs is placed in relief when compared to those of noted photojournalists Robert Capa and Margaret-Bourke-White.Lee Miller can be viewed as existing at the forefront of a zeitgeist, in which the inspiration for art came not from lofty ideals but from the everyday world. Although trained within the milieu of Surrealism, Miller attained the height of her artistic abilities when, spurred by the cataclysm of war, she conflated her Surrealist aesthetic with the genre of documentary photography and succeeded in creating a category all her own. Lee Miller's records of the Second World War reveal a revolutionary method of documenting a horrifying reality.
Record last modified: 2018-05-18 16:19:00
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