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Carolyn Burke

Lee Miller: A Life

By Publishers Weekly

Lee Miller, A Life by Carolyn Burke: Alfred A. Knopf, November 2005

Miller (1907–1977) began her career as a fashion model, and quickly decamped for Paris, where she became Man Ray's muse and student. After they split, she returned to Manhattan for a brief stint as a studio photographer, but eventually returned to Europe. Her surrealist background led to her taking stunning photos of the London Blitz, but she shot her most memorable — and disturbing — images accompanying American troops from Paris to Dachau as a war correspondent for Vogue. Burke's meticulously detailed biography reveals how keenly Miller's wartime experiences haunted her during her final troubled decades, but it also probes sympathetically into the artist's other significant trauma: a childhood rape, which was, Burke conjectures, exacerbated by her father's practice of photographing her nude well into early adulthood. Burke (Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy) writes with a careful sense of how Miller might have approached her work and of how it is perceived by modern viewers. Her descriptions of Miller's imagery are so vivid that, despite the dozens of photographs reproduced here, readers will find themselves wanting to see more. As the first major biographer outside the Miller family, she traces a dynamic life that embodies the spirit of the twentieth century's first half.