Nov 30, 2023
Lee Miller may have been best known in life as a beautiful muse of the legendary Surrealist Man Ray yet, shortly after her passing, a lucky accident led her family to an attic treasure trove, which made her a photography legend in her own right. During this week’s podcast, we unpack the details of this extraordinary tale, and hear many other anecdotes from Miller’s adventurous life, in a chat with her son and biographer, Antony Penrose.
From her swift ascent as a ’20s-era Vogue fashion model—and the ad campaign that sidelined her appeal—to her audacious exploits as an accredited war correspondent for the very same magazine, Penrose sheds light on a woman who lived many lives, as exemplified in the title of his first book.
Miller’s remarkable bravery as a World War II combat photographer was recently immortalized in the feature film “Lee,” starring Kate Winslet, which is another facet of our chat. Penrose describes what it was like to work with the actress as she plumbed Miller’s archive for her character development, how she mastered the operation of a custom-made Rolleiflex, and how the camera became a personality in itself as part of the film.
Penrose had a troubled relationship with his mother during much of her life, as she struggled with PTSD and the enduring effects wartime atrocities had on her psyche. His reflections on her struggles and her accomplishments reveal the very human core of a creative powerhouse who lived in the moment, in true Surrealist fashion.
“This person who I had dismissed as being a useless drunk, now had other dimensions to her, which I was totally astonished by,” recounts Penrose about the treasures she left behind in the attic. “… it had never occurred to me that her career was so distinguished, and so varied, and so absolutely groundbreaking in terms of being a woman war correspondent. And so, that’s how it began.”
So, pop in your earbuds and listen in… this is an episode you won’t want to miss!
Above photograph © 2023 Lee Miller Archives, England. All rights
Guests: Antony Penrose
For more information on our guest and the gear he uses, see:
Lee Miller Archives at Farleys House:
Lee Miller: Photographs book:
The Lives of Lee Miller biography:
The film “Lee” on IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5112584/
“Surrealist Lee Miller”” exhibit in Melbourne, Australia: https://www.heide.com.au/exhibitions/surrealist-lee-miller/
“Lee Miller in Print” exhibit in Rotterdam: https://www.boijmans.nl/en/exhibitions/lee-miller-in-print
“Seeing is Believing: Lee Miller & Friends” exhibit at Gagosian Gallery: https://gagosian.com/exhibitions/2023/seeing-is-believing-lee-miller-and-friends/