because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lee Miller

In 1927, Lee Miller started out as a much sought after fashion model in the United States until a famous photographer sold a shot of her to the Kotex company to use in an advertisement for feminine hygiene products. The minute it appeared in magazines, the image produced such a scandal, it looked as if her career was over. But whenever a door shuts on an in-your-face woman, she just kicks open another door.

In Miller's case, she wangled an introduction to the well-known surrealist photographer Man Ray, who lived and worked in Paris. Modeling for Ray while she honed her craft as a surrealist photographer herself, Miller soon began to get noticed for something besides her beauty.

The beginning of World War II found Miller living in Great Britain and, ignoring U.S. Embassy orders for all Americans to return home immediately, she took a position as a freelance war photographer for Vogue Magazine. By the end of the war five years later, she had established herself as a serious photojournalist, having covered such difficult locations as the fighting in Luxembourg and Alsace, the liberation of Buchenwald and Dachau, harrowing scenes of children dying in Vienna, and even the execution of Prime Minister Lazlo Bardossy. In the concentration camps, when the other photographers couldn't bring themselves to do anything but puke, Miller was doggedly snapping one shot after another.

Unfortunately, Miller's war time experiences left her struggling for the rest of her life with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Yet the work she forced herself to do during that time will stand as a record to chronicle all that horror so the victims will not have died in vain. Sometimes in-your-face women pay dearly for their refusal to turn away from the task that lies before them when they believe it's the right thing to do.

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