Lee Miller’s genius as a fashion and war photographer was destined to stay a footnote in art-historical journals until her son found a vast archive of her work, more than 80,000 negatives in an attic, after her death in 1977. Since then a foundation has been set up, various exhibitions held and a documentary about her extraordinary and tragic life has brought her name to prominence.
She graced the cover of Vogue as a model when she was 20, moved to Paris and began a professional and romantic relationship with artist Man Ray, which involved her with a Surrealist and modernist circle including Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, and Salvador Dalí. Marriage to an Egyptian produced a striking series of desert photographs and when World War 11 broke out she came to London and was instrumental in Vogue’s switch from couture to war time subjects. In 1944 embedded with the US army, she saw the first use of napalm bombing, was present at the blitz, the chaos following D-Day, the liberation of Paris, the Battle of Alsace, and liberation of Buchenwald and Dachau.
She had her first child at 40 in 1947 and her later years in England were marred by depression and alcoholism. Her son knew little of her life and talent and said he believed the trauma she suffered as a child, being raped aged 7 and undergoing painful treatment for a sexually transmitted disease in the aftermath, were a key to understanding her later attraction to surrealism and war photography. He said: “She held incredible secrets right through her life.’ A friend described her as “a remarkable woman, completely unsentimental, and sometimes ruthless.” Another talker of her having a “chip of ice” in her heart.
She was born 23 April 1907 4.15 pm Poughkeepsie, New York, and had a Taurus Sun on the cusp of the secretive 8th house in an Earth Grand Trine to a 12th house Moon in Virgo trine a 4th house Mars Uranus in Capricorn. An Earth Grand Trine is practical and resourceful, a hard worker and inspired. Her Mars Uranus in the 4th opposed a 10th house Neptune Jupiter Midheaven in Cancer square Mercury in Aries which is a complex mix giving her strong creative talents from Neptune in her 10th along with luck and success in her career. In part her restless direction in life was fuelled by her self-willed and intolerant father, who by choice or chance inclined her towards a peripatetic adult domestic life. He evidently took nude photos of her when she was an adolescent which can’t have helped. Her focal point Mercury would make her eternally curious, highly-strung, restless and impatient. Her Venus in sensitive Pisces (sign of the image/photographer) was conjunct Saturn and square Pluto which may have been in part why she was drawn to the camera in her career with its ability to spread the word (Pluto in the 9th). Her photographs from Dachau were headed ‘Believe it’ as they were displayed to uninformed and disbelieving US and UK readers.
Her creative 5th Harmonic was exceptionally strong though with overtones of brutality, which would be why she was drawn to dark subjects. Her victim/healer 12H was also marked; as was her 13H associated with exploration, genius, breaking away from the orthodox.
When she suffered her childhood assault tr Neptune in late Cancer was conjunct her North Node with tr Pluto moving to cross her Midheaven which can be a devastating change of life’s direction. When she photographed Dachau, after several years of seeing a litany of war time horrors, her Solar Arc Pluto was just across the conjunction to her North Node and tr Saturn was on her Midheaven. Her Node was clearly key.
Tragically, like many who suffered damaging traumas either from rape/abuse or war, and in her case both, the risk in later life is the darkness takes over unless there is therapeutic intervention. She never had a chance to heal.
Add ON: Her second husband Roland Penrose, 14 October 1900 London, whom she met in 1939 and married in 1947 was a historian, poet and associate of the Surrealists. He was a Sun Libra trine Pluto and trine/sextile a creative Neptune opposition Saturn; with an adventurous Jupiter Uranus in Sagittarius square his Venus in Virgo and trine Mars. He was a better match for her than Man Ray (see next post). His Venus was trine her Sun and conjunct her Moon and his Cancer Moon was conjunct her Jupiter.