Man Ray

Poems about Photographer Lee Miller

Jacqueline Saphra has written a series of sonnets about the colourful (even in black and white) life of Lee Miller: “A bargain with the Light, poems after Lee Miller”.  This book has 17 days left to sell a few more copies to raise the sum to publish it.  It will be in a limited edition of 300, each signed by the poet, and containing photographs by and about Lee herself.

Jacqueline Saphra explains what inspired her to write the book – unfortunately the still frame chosen does not reflect the interest of what she says!

Who is Lee Miller?

Lee was a pioneer – a New York model who went to Paris to learn how to photograph with Surrealist pioneer Man Ray (whose muse she became), a Surrealist artist in her own right, together with her husband Roland Penrose they were friends of Picasso, indeed hosting him on rare visits to Britain (where their young son famously bit the artist).  Lee also knew dark times as a survivor of childhood abuse, the obssessive love of an artist and her own work as war photographer including the liberation of Dachau concentration camp whose horror marked her.  An extraordinary woman in extraordinary times.  She both observed and recorded it in her camera but lived through it in a way only she could.

War Photographer

This video (below) takes you round the very exhibition which inspired Jacqueline Saphra to write the book of poems.  Our guide for this is none other than Katie Adie, BBC war correspondent, a TV broadcast journalist with a lifetime of reporting war and its atrocities.  She was a byword for covering the most difficult and dangerous overseas assignments – “They’re sending Kate Adie in” was a jokey expression in common use –  meaning that things in an area must now have become incredibly violent and dangerous if Kate was being despatched.  Because of her own career, it’s very appropriate that Kate Adie shows us around the War Museum’s exhibition.

Lee Miller’s house and Photographic partnership with Man Ray

Anthony Penrose, son of Lee Miller, takes us around parts of the family home and explains the photographic and personal partnership of Lee and Man Ray (he is recording this specifically for a forthcoming exhibition of Man Ray’s works).


Further Creativities:


I hope that by this point you are seriously considering purchasing a copy of the book “Bargain with the Light”.  If the poems and photos intrigue you to find out more, there are a few biographies of Lee Miller


Visit Farley Farm House in Sussex, where Lee Miller lived with her husband Roland Penrose – it has a wonderful address: Farleys House & Gallery, Farley Farm, Muddles Green, Chiddingly, East Sussex, BN8 6HW

Their house had many famous artist visitors who were also friends:Max Ernst, Joan Miro, Man Ray, Leonora Carrington, Antoni Tapies, Eileen Agar, Kenneth Armitage, William Turnbull, John Craxton and Richard Hamilton  – and the house is full of paintings and photographs by not only Lee and Roland but by their visitors.  There is also a sculpture garden.

“For the most part the house is just as it was when it was occupied by the Penrose family. Lee Miller’s kitchen looks as though she has just popped out to gather vegetables from the garden and Roland Penrose’s study only lacks the aroma of his cigar smoke.” – House website



There will be a surrealist picnic at Farley House on Sunday 27th August 2017, 4-7 pm  – limited availability so you must book (£10 each) and you are encouraged to dress in a Surrealist way and bring surreal food:

Bring your own picnic, bubbly, blankets & chairs for a late summer’s evening in our beautiful sculpture garden with stunning views of the South Downs. Advance booking is necessary as tickets are limited.

Picnic Suggestions: Pink cauliflower breasts, blue pasta salad & Muddles Green green chicken.

Or what dish could you invent which would be suitably Surrealist?



You may want to feast your eyes on the house, to get inspiration for your own interior decor, colours and art.  Certainly the house is a great example of living with vast quantities of visual art and books in an interesting yet informal and at-home way.

Even if you live too far away to visit the house, Anthony Penrose has written a book The Home of the Surrealists: Lee Miller, Roland Penrose and Their Circle at Farley Farm House” (published last year, 2016)

Try writing a sonnet about someone whose life you greatly admire?

Make a Surrealist photo of a friend or a family get-together










The Radical Eye

If you had a shedload of money, more than enough for necessities – enough to seriously collect something – what would it be?



still thinking…


Elton John, with a lifetime’s creative work, accidentally fell into the art love of his life – black and white photography.  Fortunately for us, he collected “avariciously” and is displaying it, generously, for all to see at Tate Modern until 7th May 2017.

The show is called “The Radical Eye – Modernist photography from the the Sir Elton John Collection” (Ticket price:£16.50 for one adult).

A writeup about it here, on Tate Modern’s site:

(excerpt from collection notes)  This unrivalled selection of classic modernist images from the 1920s to the 1950s features almost 200 works from more than 60 artists, including seminal figures such as Berenice Abbott, André Kertész, Man Ray, Alexandr Rodchenko and Edward Steichen among many others. The exhibition consists entirely of rare vintage prints, all created by the artists themselves, offering a unique opportunity to see remarkable works up close. The quality and depth of the collection allows the exhibition to tell the story of modernist photography in this way for the first time in the UK.

There is a fascinating video of them in his home – and this has more colour and impact and excitement (for me) because they are literally jampacked together.



Street Photography – Eugene Atget

This whole blog is about the overlap between art and life: street photography is one obvious place to find both interacting.

As you visit a town or city over the years, you notice buildings changing use – somewhere that used to be a coffee shop is now a pizza place, what was a cardshop is now a cafe…. but how intriguing to capture the changing uses of buildings as they reflect changes in society.  Eugene Atget did this for Paris at the turn of the twentieth century and for two decades.

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(Intriguing street photograph of Atget – Les Avenue de Gobelins in Daily Muse)

There is a great introduction to his work, lavishly illustrated over at the website, The Daily Muse

The picture above is my personal favourite from the website, because it is intriguing what is artificially and statically arranged inside the window and the outside real life, reflected into it.

Eugene’s photography begins as the city of Paris moves into the 1900s, through to his death in 1927.  He works quietly, not exhibiting his photos, but selling them to artists and museums. He only discovered photography aged 41, after unsuccessfully trying to work as an actor and painter.  I wonder if this is why his work has a quiet authority – a man who has reached maturity, has seen a wide variety of life (as a youth he worked on sailing ships), who understands staging and human posture (via acting) as communication and the way to frame and compose a picture (via painting).

His work only becomes well known because the more famous Man Ray and Berenice Abbot champion his work, Berenice editing many books of his photographs.  She herself is so inspired by his work, that she takes on the photographing of New York as it changes, working on this project from 1929 – 1939.

When Eugene Atget dies, those who look at his work are mystified by reference numbers on the backs of his photographs.  It was only after many mystical theories as to their meaning were examined – was it found that he had simply used the library classification system.  (presumably Dewey Decimal – the numbers written on the spine of a book to classify where they should be shelved).  As a confirmed fan of libraries myself, this only makes me like Eugene more.

(Thank you to the book “Photography a crash course” by Dave Yorath, which introduced me to Atget’s work and the information above).