IWM Honors WWII Female Photojournalist, Lee Miller

Lee Miller: A Woman’s War will be on display at the Imperial War Museum: London for another month. The brilliant exhibition sheds light on the largely forgotten, but utterly fascinating, talented and admirable woman and deserves a visit.

photo courtesy of The Imperial War Museum, London

Lee Miller in Hitler’s Bath byDavid E. Scherma, photo courtesy of The Imperial War Museum, London

On October 15, 2015, the Imperial War Museum debuted Lee Miller: A Woman’s War. The exhibition chronicles the life and career of acclaimed war photographer, Elizabeth (Lee) Miller (1907-1977). While she has fallen out of recognition, Miller is considered to be one of the most salient female war photographers of the twentieth century. Miller was one of only four accredited female US war correspondents during the Second World War. The exhibition includes 150 of Miller’s photographs and other miscellaneous ephemera and artwork. The exhibition is a moving and explosive look into the life and work of the trailblazing Miller, who deserves far more credit than she is presently given. Lee Miller: A Woman’s War will remain open until 24 April, and I would strongly urge anyone who hasn’t visited to go.

photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London

Anna Leska, Air Transport Auxilliary, Polish pilot flying a spitfire, England 1942 by Lee Miller, photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London

Miller was a tour de force who began her career as a Vogue model in 1927 after a childhood that was plagued by sexual abuse and an inappropriate relationship with her father. Miller slowly evolved into a leading photographer at American Vogue before moving to Paris, Egypt and later England. She is often cited as a muse and photographer for the Surrealist movement and inspired and collaborated with artists like Picasso, Man Ray and Roland Penrose (who she had a long affair with and eventually married).   

Miller was living in London during the outbreak of the Second World War. She offered her services as a photographer for British Vogue, where she photographed the Blitz, and the liberation of France and Dachau. Miller mainly photographed women and adeptly and delicately captured the myriad of emotions exhibited by her subjects. She was one of four women accredited as an official US war correspondent. After the war Miller struggled with her legacy and succumbed to alcoholism and depression. By the time of her death in 1977, Miller, who became an avid cook and entertainer, she and her work had largely fallen into obscurity.

photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London

Irmgard Seefried, Vienna Opera House, Vienna, Austria 1945 by Lee Miller, photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London

The Imperial War Museum has resurrected Miller in the exhibition; many of the photographs are on display for the first time.  Comprised of four parts, the exhibition both gives insight into Miller’s character and fascinating life and charts her career. It is especially interesting to see how Miller’s work changed and evolved throughout the war. She offers viewers of her photography a rare and sorely needed view into the lives of women who were impacted by the war. She handled these subjects and situations with a grace and insight that is truly enlightening. Her photography and career also raise issues of the evolution of women and female involvement in the war.     

In addition to Miller’s photographs, the exhibition includes letters, clothing, and other miscellany. It also includes portraits that Picasso, Penrose and Ray made of Miller.      

photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London

Fire Masks, London, England 1941 by Lee Miller, photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London

Go for the woman. Go for her work. The IWM does an excellent job of illuminating this fascinating figure who’s work is deserving of attention and acclaim.

Lee Miller: A Woman’s War until 24 April 2016
Tickets available now : Adult £10, Child £5, Concessions £7, Members Free, Art Fund Members £5
Open daily from 10am – 6pm


About this article

Elizabeth Vanderau‏

About Elizabeth Vanderau‏

Elizabeth is a student and writer from Boston currently living in London. She is a seasoned traveler who loves sharing stories about art, people and places. When not writing, she can be found in museums, cafes or perusing second hand shops.
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