Lee Miller’s Revenge on Fascist Culture

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

A significant part of Lee Miller's photographic work of 1945 focuses on Nazi environments. This paper argues that in these photographs Miller composed images that destabilised Nazi iconographies and explored the breakdown of Nazi aesthetic representations. Focusing on two of her photographs from this period – Suicided Staff Officer of the Bürgermeister, Town Hall, Leipzig and Suicides in the Town Hall, Leipzig – the essay explores how these photographs constituted interventions into Nazism's discursive and ideological positioning of art and representation, analysing them in relation to fashion, advertising, and dada and surrealist traditions. By contrasting Miller's pictures with photographs of the same scenes by Margaret Bourke-White and J. Malan Heslop, the paper argues that Miller's images offer composed scenes rather than straightforward documentation and involve the viewer in a philosophical, analytical and artistic discourse that destabilises and opposes the assertion by fascist and other oppressive ideologies that the link between representation and reality is flawless and natural. Miller's photographs from 1945 offer a complex response to these aesthetic tools and to art, including photography, and its roles in the wider ideological emphasis on representation in the fascist Weltanschauung. This presents a world that is evident in Nazism's staging of its ideologically motivated exhibitions, the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung (The Great German Art Exhibition) and Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art), which attempted to demolish and deem ‘degenerate’ work by modern artists including a number of Miller's friends such as Picasso and Max Ernst. Miller adopts dada and surrealist discourses, allusions and aesthetic strategies to support the avant-garde aesthetics National Socialism sought to destroy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-413
JournalHistory of Photography
Volume36
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Keywords

  • Lee Miller (1907–77)
  • John Heartfield (1891–1968)
  • J. Malan Heslop (1923–2011)
  • Margaret Bourke-White (1904–71)
  • David E. Scherman (1916–97)
  • Kurt Lisso (1892–1945)
  • Adolf Hitler (1889–1945)
  • National Socialism
  • Dada
  • Surrealism
  • faces
  • facialisation
  • Vogue

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Lee Miller’s Revenge on Fascist Culture'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this