Elizabeth “Lee” Miller (1907–1977) is one of the most versatile photographers and photojournalists of the 20th century. Her oeuvre combines the contrasting genres of surrealism, fashion, portrait and travel photography, all the way to war reporting. The Bucerius Kunst Forum documents with the show Lee Miller: A Photographer between War and Glamour, how Miller went her own way as an artist and war reporter, repeatedly breaking conventions both in terms of content and form. For the first time, her life’s work will be on view in its entirety in Hamburg.
The exhibition presents 150 photographs from the period 1929 to 1973 and thus shows the entire breadth of Miller’s life’s work. Organised in cooperation with the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich and the Lee Miller Archives, the exhibition divides Miller’s creative phases into the chapters Modelling, Fashion and Portraits, Surrealism, Women at War, Miller’s War, Concentration Camps, Liberated Paris and Food, Friends, Farley Farm.
In the 1920s, Lee Miller posed for the pre-eminent photographers of the twentieth century. After two years in front of the camera, she then switched sides. She met the surrealist Man Ray in Paris and worked with him on joint photo projects and experiments with the solarisation technique. Miller also made contact with other fellow artists among the Parisian avant-garde and dabbled in the Surrealist style before developing her own artistic language.
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Miller’s haunting accounts of the war for Vogue made her one of the most renowned photojournalists of the twentieth century. The impact of Surrealism on her photographic practice would give her a unique way of approaching the gruesome sights she encountered at the recently liberated concentration camps of Dachau and Buchenwald in a special, fearless way. Miller’s pictures indeed seem absurd at times, and yet these are uncensored scenes of the real-life horrors of war. Traumatised by her wartime experiences, Miller returned to England after the end of the war and ceased work as a professional photographer. She discovered cooking as a new pursuit, creating her own recipes and welcoming many prominent figures on the European art scene to her home in East Sussex.