ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Lee Miller was featured on the cover of Vogue shortly after a chance encounter with the publisher.
"Lee Miller was the most amazing woman of the 20th century," shared Hank Hine, director of the Dali Museum. "She was incredible. Originally, she was blessed by being a very beautiful woman, and of course, she was put in front of a camera."
She began modeling in 1927, and her comfort posing for the camera made her an easy favorite for the fashion photographers of the era. But, Miller wasn't satisfied with being in front of the camera.
"She decided, that's not for me. I'm going to be on the other side of that camera and learned to be a photographer," Hine explained.
Miller began to study the techniques of the greatest photographers of the publications she appeared in. She was featured in pieces shot by Roland Penrose and Edward Steichen, but it was Man Ray who really inspired her and took her under his wing. Her photography is on display in a special exhibit at the Dali Museum right now.
"She consistently fulfilled her vision of what she could be," said Hine.
The early years of her photography career show a side of her life that changed dramatically when World War II began. Miller's life took a turn as she witnessed the destruction of lives and cities in Britain.
"I'm not just going to be a passive person behind the lines, safe. I'm going to be a part of this effort," shared Hine. "She embedded with the American Army and was with the troops throughout the campaigns of the war."
Miller's war correspondence photography featured images of bombed-out villages and homes, soldiers on a mission, the surgeons who worked to keep the injured alive, and the dead frozen in time.
"You'll see a photograph that's amazing, that she took of herself in Hitler's bathtub just after he had committed suicide and Germany was surrendering," stated Hine. "(She said) I washed off the filth of Buchenwald in Hitler's bathtub."
She went to both Buchenwald and Dachau and saw the horrors of those concentration camps and the victims both alive and dead found there.
"When the war was over, she married, had a child and lived on a farm, and cooked," said Hine.
Some speculate that she wanted to forget what she had witnessed, or decided it was time to settle down in peace.
"Of course my favorite photo is the one she took of Dali and Gala, because it synthesizes the circle of great talents historically," shared Hine of Miller and her artistic influences. "They all knew each other they all worked in the same direction. We, at the Dali, can connect it all with our programs."
If you would like to see the "The Woman Who Broke Boundaries: Photographer Lee Miller" exhibit, it is on display at The Dali Museum now through January of 2022. Details on the exhibit are here: https://thedali.org/exhibit/photographer-lee-miller/.
To schedule a visit, log onto https://thedali.org/exhibit/photographer-lee-miller/.
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