Lee Miller, esteemed model turned surrealist artist and war-time photojournalism, was a phenomenally accomplished fashion photographer. Some of her greatest work was unseen, though, being unpublished until recently. Fashion historian Becky E. Conekin has compiled a posthumous homage to Miller’s fashion portfolio in her new book Lee Miller in Fashion. The celebration of Miller’s work continued at the Staley Wise gallery, which, in addition to a modest showing of 13 prints, featured a book signing with Conekin. The photographs on display, shot between 1930 and 1950, demonstrate Miller’s careful construction and whimsical nature in a new context that complement Staley Wise’s already substantial collection of Miller's work.
Gallery director Etheleen Staley compared Miller’s work to that of Patrick Demarchelier, also featured in an exhibit at Staley Wise.
“The period is so different, but they both are very formalized, they’re posed, they’re not context,” Staley told Musée in an exclusive interview. “I think they have that in common, you know, they’re not snapshots. They’re serious posed photography, and I think they would have admired each other’s work.”
The book thankfully features more than just the handful of photographs at Staley Wise which left the viewer yearning for more. Each print invited thoughtful examination and attracted an elite crowd, including former Executive Director of the CFDA Fern Mallis, which tightly packed the space for hours.
The book’s striking archival prints and contact sheets, as well as Conekin’s thoughtful insights, make Lee Miller in Fashion a delightful experience for the photographer-turned-fashionista in each of us.
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Lee Miller in Fashion is published by The Monacelli Press and is available in hardcover for $45 for purchase online.
Text and photos by Justin McCallum.