Misia-O’: The Spirit of Lee Miller

Misia-O’ “The Spirit of Lee Miller”
4th to 31st July, 2022
Belle Beau Gallery
14 rue de Grille
13200 Arles, France

Photographer Misia-O’ will unveil 4 large format photographs inspired by Lee Miller in Arles in an exhibition titled ‘The Spirit of Lee Miller’, which will also feature a bespoke perfume inspired by the explosive magnificence of Miller, a limited edition art book and an NFT. At ‘The Spirit of Lee Miller’ vernissage at Belle Beau Gallery on Wednesday 6th of July, there will be an ‘In Conversation’ between Misia-O’ and Ami Bouhassane, Lee Miller’s granddaughter and Co-director of Farleys House & Gallery Ltd, the company that manages the Lee Miller Archives.

Misia-O Éclosion The spirit of Lee Miller exhibition
Éclosion The spirit of Lee Miller exhibition by Misia O’ ©2022

‘The Spirit of Lee Miller’ by Misia-O’ is a new exhibition featuring a capsule portrait
photography series. ‘The Spirit of Lee Miller’ photography exhibition is the first of a series dedicated to female artists eclipsed by their titles of Muses. ‘The Spirit’ of Lee Miller’ is the 6th consecutive exhibition of Misia-O’ during Les Rencontres d’Arles, following ‘Different Shades of Black’ in 2019, ‘Different Shades of White’ in 2021, and ‘Different Shades of Yellow’ in 2020, for which Misia-O’ was awarded the prestigious ‘Prix du Jury’ by le Salon des Beaux Arts.

Misia-O' The muse of a poet exhibition
The muse of a poet exhibition by Misia O’ ©2022

After being discovered by Conde Nast in New York in the 1920’s. Lee Miller became a
favourite Vogue model, and later on a model for famous photographers and artists such as Steichen, Cocteau, Picasso, and Man Ray. She went behind the camera, opened her first portrait studio in Paris 1930 and became a portrait, advertising and fashion photographer for Vogue and other magazines (including Vanity Fair, Lilliput, Picture Post and LIFE), during the 30s and 40s.

In the 1929 Miller moved to Paris where she met Surrealist Man Ray, she quickly became his student, lover and collaborator before opening her own studio in the city. Miller discovered the solarisation technique by accident and developed it further with Man Ray. Miller’s beauty and relationships with well-known artists and perceived role as ‘muse’ often overshadowed her incredible accomplishments as a surrealist, portrait and fashion photographer and war correspondent with US forces during World War II.

Misia O - The spirit of Lee Miller exhibition
The Spirit of Lee Miller Éclosion ©2022

Miller was one of a handful of female war correspondents with the Allied troops, and thought to be the only one that was attached to the US Army that covered combat. For some of her war reportage she teamed up with Life Magazine photographer David E Scherman. Miller was living in Hitler’s private apartment in Munich when his death was announced. There she took the iconic self-portrait in Hitler’s bath. On the floor by the bath stand Miller’s boots, covered with the filth of Dachau prison camp which she had come from that morning. In the later part of her life, Miller turned to surrealist cooking in her home, Farleys, England, where the Lee Miller Archives are held and managed by her son Antony Penrose and granddaughter Ami Bouhassane.

The Spirit of Lee Miller is a tribute to her free spirited “essence”, her photography talent and her inner and outer beauty. At the centre of ‘The Spirit of Lee Miller’ exhibition in Arles will be four large-format limited edition prints inspired by Lee Miller and titled; ‘Becoming Lee’, ‘The spirit of’, ‘Éclosion’ and ‘The Muse of a Poet’. Misia-O’s shoots on both analogue (Hasselblad) and digital (Fuji XT2), and ‘The Spirit of Lee Miller’ includes both. Misia-O’ processes and prints her analogue pictures. All pictures were taken in her photography studio in London.

The exhibition will take place from 4th to 31st July at Belle Beau Gallery, an art and photography gallery located in a 17th century Hôtel Particulier in the heart of Arles, during the festival of Les Rencontres d’Arles. Ami Bouhassane, Lee Miller’s granddaughter, and Co-director of Lee Miller Archives will talk with Misia-O’ about Misia-O’s work, as well as her grandmother’s intrepid life and career as a photographer, during an invitation only vernissage on Wednesday 6th of July at Belle Beau Gallery.

Misia O' - Becoming Lee The spirit of Lee Miller exhibition
Becoming Lee The spirit of Lee Miller exhibition by Misia O’ ©2022

Misia-O’ says: “I discovered the works of Lee Miller aged 11. My Mother had bought me
a Surrealist book featuring solarised portraits that looked magical to me, and I found Lee’s “Fire Masks” intriguing. This led me to discover Surrealism and my love for photography and of the 1930’s. Furthermore, and as importantly, I admire Lee’s talent and I can relate to her free spirit and photographic style. Bypassing her beauty, which for a while turned her into the Muse of famous male artists, she went behind the camera, and became an independent and talented photographer. As a female war photographer, her courage and humanity during the war was remarkable. If
anything, Lee Miller proves that brain, beauty and talent are absolutely possible as she
managed this in the 30’s and 40’s, an era known for not giving female artists the credit they deserved. Her legacy is deeply inspiring, and it is an honour to pay tribute to her.”

Misia-O’ is not only an accomplished photographer, and MA student at the prestigious Royal College of Art, is also an Artisan Parfumer whose unique scented creations encapsulate the essence of her photography subject. For her ‘The Spirit of Lee Miller’ exhibition in Arles, Misia-O’ has created a perfume as a tribute to Miller’s free, spirited soul and her talent as a unique and ground-breaking photographer.

The scent, like Lee Miller, celebrates her hypnotic, sensual, independent and even rebellious nature with complex notes revealing her refreshing and intoxicating ‘garçonne’ nature. To accompany the exhibition, Misia-O’ has also created a special collector’s limited edition of handmade ‘The Spirit of Lee Miller’ art photography books, containing a curated selection of Misia-O’s images and poems, which are inspired by Lee’s career as a model, a muse and independent photographer.

Misia’O’s exhibition ‘The Spirit of Lee Miller’ coincides serendipitously with a major retrospective at l’Espace Van Gogh in Arles during Les Rencontres d’Arles: ‘Lee Miller: Professional Photographer’ (1932-1945) which will focus on the most prolific periods of Miller’s life, featuring her fashion & advertising photography and portraits, as well as her more gritty photojournalism, including powerful images captured in Dachau and Buchenwald during World War II.

©2022 Misia-O, Belle Beau Gallery