She was on the cover of Vogue at age 19 – one of the world’s most beautiful and glamorous women. The camera loved her, as did the world of high fashion. But Lee Miller was a restless soul, full of energy and talent. She moved behind the camera and began to experiment with surrealistic photography. In 1932, she established her own studio in New York and spend her time both there and in London producing amazing photographs. When WWII began, her friends and family pleaded with her to come home from London, but she wanted to help. "Nobody was going to give her a gun or an airplane, or something useful like that – so she used her camera." At first her photographs were of the homefront, but by 1942 she had become a U.S. Army war correspondent, documenting the war in Europe both by photographs and the written word. In 1944, she was with U.S. troops for the battle of Saint-Malo, where she crouched in a trench as bombs and bodies exploded around her. She photographed the grittiest, ugliest scenes imaginable and thought perhaps she had seen the worst of human suffering; but then came 1945 and Buchenwald and Dachau. Her documentation of the liberation of those camps appeared in Vogue in July of 1945 under the title "Believe It," simply because people refused to believe the horror of the radio reports. Her photographs of bodies stacked like cordwood, ovens full of partially-burned corpses, and walking human skeletons shocked a nation and the world. Not surprisingly, she paid a high price, suffering with PTSD the rest of her life. She died in 1977, and it was only after her death that her incredible work was fully documented through the 60,000 negatives found in the attic of her apartment. In the image for which she is perhaps best known, she was captured washing away the grime and grit of battle in Hitler’s own bath. Don’t be fooled, however, Lee Miller was much, much more than a pretty girl in front of the camera.
top of page
bottom of page