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Lee Miller's War

by Antony Penrose

Other authors: David Edward Scherman (Foreword)

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Lee Miller's work for Vogue from 1941-1945 sets her apart as a photographer and writer of extraordinary ability. She had worked for Vogue on fashion assignments at the start of the war, photographing Dylan Thomas, Margot Fonteyn and James Mason as well as Henry Moore sketching in the air raid shelters of London. After D-Day and for the remainder of the war Miller followed the US Army across Europe, giving Vogue an extraordinary hotline to the front in France, and giving the world some of the most powerful photographs of the Second World War ever to appear. In Lee Miller's War, twelve of Miller's most important despatches are reassembled from the original manuscripts, interspersed with letters and telegrams which give a glimpse of Lee's personal reactions to the events she reported. Starting with her first report from a field hospital soon after D-Day, the despatches and 200 photographs chronicle the liberation of Paris, fighting in the Loire Valley, Luxembourg, Alsace, the Russian/ American link at Torgau and the liberation of Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps, ending with her now-famous picture of Hitler's Berchtesgaden house Alderhorst in flames. personal involvement with professional detachment, while her photographs, with their own quality of surrealist irony, show war-ravaged cities, buildings and landscapes, but above all, the heroic resilience of people. David Scherman, the renowned war photojournalist who shared many of these assignments with her, has provided a fascinating foreword.… (more)
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Lee Miller is a fascinating woman. She was a model and muse to photographers like Man Ray and took up surrealist photography herself among other talents. Following the Normandy invasion, Miller got herself credentialed as a war correspondent. She followed the progress of the American armed forces and the liberation of France, Luxembourg, and Germany for Vogue magazine of all publications (apparently her grim photographs of the war dead ran pages after typical fashion advice articles). Miller's son Anthony Penrose says that his mother didn't speak much of the war. In Lee Miller's War (1992) Penrose collects the dispatches, letters, telegrams, and most importantly the evocative photographs of Lee Miller's war experience.

Compared to Ernie Pyle, these stories have something of a women's touch. Granted, Miller was often restricted from the frontlines against her wishes, although on one occasion she found herself in the heart of battle. More typically Miller is left to cover the fashion of Paris and how Parisians "dressed up" as an act of defiance against the occupying Germans. There's even photos and descriptions of Paris' first fashion show post-occupation. Miller also hobnobs with celebrities of the time like Picasso, Cocteau, and Collette which is interesting in that I never stopped to think that these well known people lived under German occupation. A similar novelty is the liberation of Luxembourg. It's rare to hear about the war from the point of view of Luxembourg and its people.

Don't be misunderstood though. Lee Miller confronts the war in all it's grim and gritty nature. Her visceral distaste for the German POW's and civilians lends an immediacy to the war correspondence. Her photos of liberated concentration camps capture all the horror while lending dignity to the survivors. She also ended up staying in Hitler's Munich apartment where she was famously photographed in the bathtub.

This is a fascinating book to read and study. As always, MetaFilter has a couple of good posts with links relating to Lee Miller's life and work.
Author: Miller, Lee, 1907-1977.
Title: Lee Miller's war : photographer and correspondent with the Allies in Europe, 1944-45 / foreword by David E. Scherman ; edited by Antony Penrose.
Publication: Info. Boston : Little, Brown, c1992.
Edition: 1st North American ed.
Description: 208 p. : ill. ; 29 cm. ( )
  Othemts | Jun 26, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Antony Penroseprimary authorall editionscalculated
Scherman, David EdwardForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed

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Lee Miller's work for Vogue from 1941-1945 sets her apart as a photographer and writer of extraordinary ability. She had worked for Vogue on fashion assignments at the start of the war, photographing Dylan Thomas, Margot Fonteyn and James Mason as well as Henry Moore sketching in the air raid shelters of London. After D-Day and for the remainder of the war Miller followed the US Army across Europe, giving Vogue an extraordinary hotline to the front in France, and giving the world some of the most powerful photographs of the Second World War ever to appear. In Lee Miller's War, twelve of Miller's most important despatches are reassembled from the original manuscripts, interspersed with letters and telegrams which give a glimpse of Lee's personal reactions to the events she reported. Starting with her first report from a field hospital soon after D-Day, the despatches and 200 photographs chronicle the liberation of Paris, fighting in the Loire Valley, Luxembourg, Alsace, the Russian/ American link at Torgau and the liberation of Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps, ending with her now-famous picture of Hitler's Berchtesgaden house Alderhorst in flames. personal involvement with professional detachment, while her photographs, with their own quality of surrealist irony, show war-ravaged cities, buildings and landscapes, but above all, the heroic resilience of people. David Scherman, the renowned war photojournalist who shared many of these assignments with her, has provided a fascinating foreword.

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