Lee Miller

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by CMoore, May 21, 2018.

  1. CMoore

    CMoore Subscriber

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    Hard to imagine a more interesting story. She certainly forged her own way in life. My life definitely appears boring by comparison. :wink:




    When i read about "These Kinds" of people, it always seems as though they never needed a source like APUG. I have dedicated a larger portion of these last two years to learning about Photography/Printing. I have taken three photography classes and watched several Youtube videos.
    But.......Lee Miller, Martin Munkacsi...you watch their "bio", they pick up a camera one day, take a few snapshots, fall in love with Photography, somehow meet several famous Actors/Artists/Photographers/and assorted rich people.....and the next thing you know they are shooting frames of Hitler, or Fred Astaire, or living with Man Ray or having Harper's or Vogue throwing gobs of money at them as they open their own studio in some major city.
    You never once hear one of these big names say.......I was not sure which grade paper to use, or...i was not sure how big a test-strip should be, or.....do my negatives look Over Exposed or Under Exposed.
    Its like, 5 minutes into a 45 minute video they decided to "Be A Photographer", and at the 6 minute mark they are shooting frames of Katherine Hepburn, sleeping with John Wayne and playing Polo with the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough.
    Dorothea Lange.....got Polio, graduated High School, wanted to travel the world, but got robbed in San Francisco, and the next thing you know she has a photo studio and is making a living.....a few minutes more of the video and she has Migrant Mother hanging in God's Living Room and never once wondered if she should be using HC110 or D-76.
    I realize you cannot tell a whole life story in 45 minutes, something has to be left out, but you guys get my gist.
    While i am still learning to Dodge, Burn, Split Print and mix my own Hypo Clear, these people are already Famous Hollywood Photographers or setting the stage for what people will think or not think is Photo Journalism.
    While i am trying to figure out if i should flash a print for 0.3 seconds or 0.5 seconds, Charles Sheeler is being asked by Henry Ford to Photograph one of the Worlds Biggest and most Famous Industrial Factories that mankind will ever see, and making some of the most stunning photos as well.
    It all seems a bit Deflating at times.:sad::smile::wondering:
     
  2. mpirie

    mpirie Member

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    Wow, what a life and a talent.

    Thanks for posting.

    Mike
     
  3. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    After WW2 Lee Miller married an English lord ( Lord Roland Penrose) but couldn't forget her WW2 experiences suffered from P.T.S.D. In her later life she became a hopeless drunk, her children had no idea she was ever a photographer she never spoke about it they only found out after she died and they found thousands of prints in the attic of her house and her Rolleiflex.,.
    https://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=...&ei=td0CW8OOGoavkwX03YGQBQ&q=lee+miller+war+p
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2018
  4. tedr1

    tedr1 Member

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    CM one thing that occurs to me is that in some cases, perhaps in some of the examples you have chosen, the photographer is "only" the camera operator who was (is) at the sharp end of things where getting the shot or not might be a question less of technical competence and more a result of personality and character and ability to function under adverse conditions. Having got the shot the photographer sends the exposed film off somewhere and goes on to the next shoot, while back in the darkroom under carefully controlled conditions somebody follows the rules of development and printing. On the other hand we attempt to do the whole thing ourselves, for fun, and there is a lot to learn, it takes time, especially for amateurs working evenings and weekends only.

    I sometimes think that perhaps some of the famous photographers are too devoted to their subject and might be a bit weird, as in obsessed. These folk may be admirable with a camera but you wouldn't necessarily want to spend a weekend with them!
     
  5. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    Miller came from quite a privileged East Coast family, and growing up her milieu was one of well-off and well-connected people, and her story is certainly more complicated than 'picked up camera, got famous'. She had a number of different careers, including as a fashion model, and as Man Ray's assistant (and probably lover).

    She seems to have been sexually abused as a child, and had a penchant for alcohol from an early age.
    As a former clinician, I usually try to avoid diagnoses of public figures (or indeed anyone I haven't met a few times), but I know quite a lot about Lee Miller, and I'd say she was certainly an alcoholic by the time she married Penrose (who was, by the way, a leading light in British art, and was himself a Surrealist painter. The family had some Spanish guy called Pablo to stay a few times too).

    I'm not sure that "hopeless drunk" is a helpful way to refer to people who struggle with addiction to alcohol.

    On top of that, she appears to have had quite a lot of the features that might these days prompt a diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (what is still often called "Borderline PD"). She was, accordingly, sometimes bloody hard work to be around, drunk or sober.

    So all in all, she was a complex character. The book "The Lives of Lee Miller" is by her son (Antony Penrose) and unsurprisingly slightly underplays her difficulties, but is nevertheless really worth a read. There are also other biographies which help fill in the gaps.

    Not many photographers who have become internationally famous and successful worked their way up from Box-Brownie poverty through the darkroom and into the limelight. Most came from comfortable & privileged backgrounds, had a good education (not rarely in photography or the fine arts generally) and some family money to help them on their way - Cartier-Bresson is a good example.
    But none of that would have availed them much had they not had a vivid and well-defined idea of re-envisioning the world around them - in short, an artistic vision.

    Still, I find her admirable. A full life, and lived to the full.
     
  6. Nodda Duma

    Nodda Duma Subscriber

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    Everyone has an interesting story. You only get to learn of a very few.
     
  7. OP
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    CMoore

    CMoore Subscriber

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    tedr1 -
    Well said. :wink:

    No doubt there have been many an occasion where it all unfolded just as you describe. :smile:
     
  8. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    CMoore:
    There is one factor you may be missing.
    If someone writes a biography about someone like Lee Miller and the first 100 pages are full of boring detail about how she couldn't accomplish anything for the first three years after she picked up a camera, most likely their book editor will edit that section out!
    Some times greatness isn't achieved until after a lot of boring work and/or failures.
    Some times greatness percolates up through otherwise boring times.
    But greatness isn't necessarily dramatic when it takes a while to reveal itself.
    And greatness is rarely obvious in early professional work.
    There is a fair amount of Ansel Adams' professional photographic work around. Much of it isn't particularly inspiring.
     
  9. OP
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    CMoore

    CMoore Subscriber

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    Hey Matt -
    No doubt, and like i say, i realize in a 45 minute video, even my Bio would seem interesting. :smile:
    My post was as much Humorous Observation as it was a repeating fact about "Famous Photographers".
    Lots of members have already made good points as well.
    And i am a bit tainted. In the building trade unions, you start as an apprentice, everybody goes through 3-4 years of school, after awhile (if you have what it takes) you become a foreman, work your way up the ladder, teaching the younger guys as you go. Kind of a steady pace that we all experience.
    Nobody works as a welder, discovers they like electricity, and then a year later find themselves running a very successful Electrical Contractor Business, and doing ground breaking work with Life-Safety devices. :smile:
    "The Arts" DO allow for some of those Shooting Star/Volcanic Eruption scenarios.
    Like i say, this is much more of an Observation on my part, than it is any kind of Definitive Truth about the lives of creative people that "make it big".
     
  10. bernard_L

    bernard_L Member

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    Lee miller was one of the first photographers who also wrote the article. And controlled the page layout. See her pieces about Germany in 1945 (for Life magazine, IIRC).
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2018
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