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Lee Miller: On Both Sides Of The Camera

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  238 ratings  ·  44 reviews
One of the few women to cover the Second World War, photographer Lee Miller is best remembered for documenting the liberation of the concentration camps. In this biography, Carolyn Burke examines her oeuvre, from her wartime images through to her portrait photographs.
Published October 16th 2006 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published November 15th 2005)
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Still finishing this (about 20 pages to go), but I can only recommend this as a tub or beach read. In the first place, Miller was a remarkably captivating personality and an exceptional photo-journalist, but she was no pioneering figure of 20th Century art and photography. She was lazy, opportunistic, derivative and something of a gadfly socially and professionally. Her pre-WWII work is often beautiful (Cf her Egyptian period), and she was a justifiably popular fashion and portrait photographer....more
Although I was keen to read about the enigmatic Lee Miller, whose photographs include images of her coterie of fabulous artist friends and also harrowing images of WWII, I can't say I finished the book knowing much more about her than I had before I started it. I couldn't really make out anything about who Lee really was as a person except that she was a rather talented photographer and muse to Vogue and the Surrealist artists, and she was also a beautiful free spirit, which explains her hold ov...more
...and what a life! Model for Man Ray and Conde Nast, muse to Cocteau and Picasso, turned war correspondent covering the front lines amid the revelation of the Nazi concentration camps, turned sometimes happy homemaker. Burke's biography is so exhaustively well-researched and presented that no doubt crosses your mind as to how the social butterfly and the hard-edged photojournalist could be the same person.

I read this book because it was on a "recommended reads" shelf accompanied by a notecard d...more
Gabrielle Lawrence
Glorious and dark portrait of an extremely engaging woman, as well as an amazing glimpse at the early part of the 20th century. Miss Miller turned the light on in the dark room, creating the famous "solarization" technique so often credited to Man Ray (one of her many intriguing lovers). She was part of Picasso's inner circle and one of the greatest war photographers ever. I love her, love this book.
A well done biography of a multi-faceted woman. In describing the life of Lee Miller Burke also provides analysis of several of Miller's pictures and those of her. At the same time she inserts glimpses of the lives of several members of the surrealist school. Most people do not think of war correspondents being former models and writers for a woman's magazine but that was Lee Miller. She had an illustrious career but seeing war close up, including being in a battle for a town, and having photogr...more
An excellent study of the fascinating model, muse, photographer, journalist, and gourmet cook Lee Miller. Impeccably researched and thoughtfully written, this book provides an insightful look at a complex and dynamic woman. Lee Miller: A Life is a riveting read, completely satisfying and highly recommended.
Feb 26, 2008 Maureen rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Ladies who wish to live with style, gents who like their womenfolk with elegance and grit
Coolest woman ever. Although her surrealist cooking adventures were pure Fanny Craddock.
Life changing, trance-inducing. Up there with The Making of the Atomic Bomb.

My only beef is an early description of Miller's sexual 'experience' at age 7. Why not just change that word to 'assault' and be more accurate. Given every other careful word choice in this beefsteak, this is not worth mentioning. Why do I mention it? I don't know. It's 378 pages long, and that's the only fault I can find.

The book travels from Miller's early life in PA searching for a job in theater and modeling, follo...more
By any measure, Miller, the daughter of an engineer from Poughkeepsie lived a remarkable life (or series of lives): as a teenager she went to Paris and studied theater design, on her return to New York she was discovered by Conde Nast himself and became not only a Vogue model but the prototype Flapper. She returned to Paris to study photography, which she did with Man Ray, becoming his muse, mistress, and partner. She became friends with all the usual 20s and 30s Paris suspects, became a success...more
Feb 11, 2008 Dayna rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in muses, surrealism, WWII photojournalists, alcoholics
Enjoyable read so far (only on ~p.100), but I am annoyed at the lack of photos. Lee Miller was, after all, a photographer, and we have to make do with some long descriptions of her photos. I realize this is probably a rights issue, and will remedy it by going onto the web and seeing what I can find. But I think the reading experience would be that much richer if we could see more of Miller's work.
I stand by my original comment. More photos, please! After getting through WWII, during which Lee wa...more
Aug 24, 2013 Carol added it
Fascinating insight into the life of this extraordinary woman. I first found out about her through books and exhibitions on photogaphy - one of my main interests - and in particular in connection with the solarisation technique that she and Man Ray discovered. Unlike other readers, I really enjoyed finding out more about the photography and art techniques that Lee or her friends were involved with. Writing this just after finishing the book, I'm left feeling that I learned a great deal about Lee...more
Ah, women artists of the 20th century.... as usual, since it's non-fiction, I skimmed and skipped around a lot. But I did read most of it - it's well written, and Miller's life is absolutely fascinating. She had close relationships as muse, model and lover to various surrealist artists, and more importantly her own surrealist work is really good. I was most interested in the section on her WWII war photography from Germany - where she photographed the liberation of concentration camps, Nazi guar...more
This was assigned reading for a book club. We found the author biased and borderline misogynistic. Where no facts were available, Ms. Burke filled in with assumption and bias. I found the book reveled in Ms. Millers tragedies, exploiting her family and youth to support the authors agenda. The author is not a psychologist or psychoanalyst, yet proceeds with deep psychoanalysis. The author does not cite any authorities or primary sources to support her thesis. If the moribund and dark tales are al...more
Aug 04, 2012 Debra rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves Paris and strong women
Love the story behind this artist's life . I started out only knowing about her because she was Man Ray's muse /lover / assistant . What a force of nature very supportive father a photographer in his own right . She experienced tragedy early on and still persevered in her fight to be an artist and not just a beauty . Love the pre WW 2 setting of Paris and all the crazy artists popping up . IF you appreciate surrealism this is the book for you .Her travels in Russia are fascinating and her love a...more
Although Miller's life (or maybe more appropriately - lives) was filled with adventure, mystique, romance, and an incredible amount of creative energy, this just wasn't a great read. Often referring to photographs that are not included in the book, it was easy to feel like a complete outsider trying to imagine my way into her world. Also, the constant use of French phrases that would have been "vogue" in Miller's day but for which I needed to find translations broke momentum and distanced myself...more
Annie Garvey
Miller's life story reminded me of the movie, "Plenty." After living through and photographing World War II, life lost its edge.
An excellent introduction to the life and work of photographer, artist and muse Lee Miller. She's the subject of renewed critical interest after her photographs were discovered by her son Antony Penrose. 2007 is her centenary and thirtieth anniversary of her death.

After my dissertation research, there wasn't a whole lot new to me, but Burke seems to have gained access to some previously unavailable materials. The quality of the images is good overall, though I felt more could have been included...more
Jul 30, 2008 Gail marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
While we were in San Fran, there was the most fascinating exhibit on Miller going on at the SFMOMA. Walking around and reading about her and seeing all her work, I couldn't help but wonder why I didn't know more about her already.

Talk about a fascinating figure - a muse to Man Ray, a pal of Picasso's (if he paints a portrait of you, I call that a pal!), a photographer at a time when few women got behind the camera (after first being in front) and then a photojournalist during WW2, well ... need...more
Heather D-n
I saw of a New York Times sideshow of this woman, and I'm obsessed. Unfortunately somewhere near the middle I got bogged down as Lee played a model and later sexually adventurous artist's muse to Man Ray. Things slowed even more when she married and moved to Egypt. Following that, her experiences photographing Germany and France during WWII for Vogue were interesting. Perhaps this is just envy speaking, but it seemed like she is just another stubborn, privileged, beautiful girl who happened to b...more
My mom loaned this book to me. It's written by the mother of a childhood friend. I found it really interesting and could not believe I had never heard of Lee Miller before. She was one of the first female journalists/photographers in WW2 as well as a Vogue writer and model, world traveler and gourmet cook. I was a bit annoyed by the choice of photos in the book. The author included many that she never even mentioned in the text, and then failed to include others that she wrote a ton about.
I love biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, what have you. And while I may have been interested in learning more about Miller's life, I couldn't work my way through this book. Every time I picked it up, I inevitably would start to drift off to sleep after the third page. Burke seems to be an excellent biographer, but the story she presented was too detail heavy, at least for me. It's sad, really, because Miller seemed to be quite the character.
I was not that familiar with Lee Miller, who was both a muse and an artist in her own right. She was a muse to both Man Ray and Jean Cocteau, becoming a surrealist photographer herself. She also was a war correspondent during WWII. It was interesting and I want to learn more about these people. I think I'll read about another female surrealist next - Dorothea Tanning - who was a magnificent painter and was married to Max Ernst
I wanted to love this book - a biography of Lee Miller I picked up after spending a delightful hour lost in her photography at the V&A - but found it a bit lacking and overly clinical. If you want to learn about this brilliant & unique woman check out her pictures (the portrait of Charlie Chaplin or her in Hitler's bathtub re my favs) or better yet read her columns from WW II (originally in Vogue Magazine, I think).
Apryl Anderson
Ms Burke makes a lot of assumptions about Ms Miller's motives that I believe would infuriate her subject. This was a life lived to the fullest extent. I won't make moral judgements, for that would limit the eternal nature of her spirit. I only regret for her sake that she was washed with the tidal wave of good and evil in her life. Had she a trustworthy anchor, I wonder to what extent she would have soared.
Jim Stogdill
Lee Miller lived an amazing life. Unfortunately the amazing part ended with the second world war and the book, being her life's story, continues till her death in the 70's. It was difficult to see her accept such a constrained role in life after the barriers she broke early on. Well worth the read though if you are interested in photography or the life of an artist in that amazing period from the 20's to the 40's.
Mark E.
One hell of a lady. I was not aware of her contributions to the photo arts. i only knew her as an object/model of Man Ray. Please look into her art. Her war work is amazing. It's was shame that she was never the same person after bearing witness to Hitler's germany. i would have loved to have spent a holiday weekend with her.
Lee Miller had a crazy life. Several lives in one lifetime. This is a good bio on her. SHe was a model and then a muse to ManRay the surrealist photographer and then she learned photography and she became quite adept. She also was one of the first female photojournalists allowed in WWII. This is a good bio on her.
Victoria Law
I knew nothing whatsoever about Lee Miller nor about her existence and work before I got this book as a b-day gift. Because I didn't start reading with any enthusiasm about her as a subject, I found it slow-going at times. But I did learn a LOT about her life and her work.
Dana Gynther
This biography is what a biography should be. Absolutey meticulous in its research, it also asks the right questions. It does not shy away from the unpleasant parts of her life, nor does it revel in them. I feel like I have a good idea who Lee Miller was. Now on to Man Ray!
Fascinating story about Lee Miller, model, artist, and photo-journalist capturing the harsh realities of WWII. Most famous for her relationship with Man Ray, not to mention the photo of herself in Hitler's bathtub, this is a wonderfully told story of a truly unique person.
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