The Real Pearl Co

Lee Miller

Lee Miller, the 1920’s model turned war reporter.

Born in New York in 1907, beautiful Lee Miller was stopped from walking in front of a car by the publisher of Conde Nast at the age of 19, thus launching her modelling career. For the next 2 years, she was one of the most sought after models in New York.

In 1929 she went to Paris and worked with the well known Surrealist artist and photographer Man Ray whose muse and mistress she became. She succeeded in establishing her own studio and became known as a portraitist and fashion photographer but her most enduring body of work is that of her Surrealist images.

She returned to New York in 1932 and again set up her own studio which ran for 2 years until she married wealthy Egyptian businessman Aziz Eloui Bey and went to live with him in Cairo. By 1937, bored with her life in Cairo, she returned to Paris where she met Roland Penrose, the Surrealist artist. She moved in with Penrose in London and defying orders from the US Embassy to return to America at the outbreak of WW II, she took a job as freelance war photographer for Vogue.

In 1942 she became a correspondent accredited to the US Army and followed the US troops overseas on D Day + 20. She was probably the only woman photo-journalist to cover the front line war in Europe and among her many exploits she witnessed the liberation of Buchenwald and Dachau and photographed Hitler’s house at Berchtesgaden in flames on the eve of Germany’s surrender. The photograph of Lee in Hitler’s bathtub remains iconic.

After the war she continued to contribute to Vogue for a further 2 years, covering fashion and celebrities and married Roland Penrose in 1947 but suffered severed episodes of PTSD. In 1949, they bought Farley Farm House in East Sussex where she died in 1977.

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