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Glamour goes to war: Lee Miller's writings for British Vogue, 1939–45

McLoughlin, Kate (2011) Glamour goes to war: Lee Miller's writings for British Vogue, 1939–45. Journal of War & Culture Studies 3 (3), pp. 335-348. ISSN 1752-6272.

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World War II intensified three overlapping visual experiences for women: seen (those who were the news), seeing (those who brought the news) and unseen (those who remained, because they were unrecorded or camouflaged, invisible). Most British women were unseen. Lee Miller, wartime correspondent for British Vogue, occupied all three positions in the war years. Reading her dispatches from Europe for British Vogue from 1939 to 1945, this article assesses Miller as a writer. Her writings help to define her as both an image and an image-maker: her language provides a more nuanced account of her sense of seeing, being seen and not being seen than is possible in a photograph. At the same time, the fact that she was a professional photographer brings a greater depth to her understanding of visuality. A mix of glamour and invisibility emerges from her texts. In the war zone, soldiers both celebrated Miller's presence and looked straight through her. The dichotomy of being seen and not being seen which recapitulates the Vogue double-bind of both glamorizing and concealing women is further complicated by another contrast: being seen and seeing. The article argues that Miller personified the exceptional observer, the unique female presence who operated in a way so similar to the military forces that she became assimilated with them, both onlooker and participant.

Item Type: Article
Keyword(s) / Subject(s): visuality, women, photography, fashion, war, Lee Miller
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Arts > English and Humanities
Depositing User: Administrator
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2011 14:18
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:22

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