4
The Ghostliness in Lee Miller’s
Egyptian Landscapes

I know how it feels to be a photographer and it’s hell….
Until Xmas time this year I hadn’t taken even a roll of
film — about three exposures I didn’t bother to develop….
I’ve found a small shop to do my developing and printing
to my satisfaction, so I’m taking an interest again.
LEE MILLER, letter to her brother Erik, Cairo, 1935

Lee Miller’s photography captures the ghost images of human bodies that emerge as visual puns in the paradoxically empty landscapes she shot in Egypt in the mid-1930s, creating photographs that emphasize her medium’s generic tendency to refer to mortality and time. These photographs elaborate a psychic geography that genders surrealist ghostliness and reflects a deepening of Miller’s surrealist photographic perspective, developed during her years in Paris starting in 1929, when, at twenty-two, she initiated an apprenticeship to and personal relationship with Man Ray, with whom she enjoyed a lively “visual conversation” (Lyford 230).


MILLER’S HUMAN HEAD

Inspired by Claude Cahun, Miller and Ray both photographed Miller’s friend Tanja Ramm’s head in a bell jar in the summer of 1930 (Penrose, “A Thing” 59).1 Their working relationship was very close during the three years they spent together, as Miller’s son, Antony

-91-

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