Framing the nightmare-Lee Miller

Lee Miller was an unlikely war correspondent. A former model and socialite, with sensitive Venus in Pisces and an attractive Libra Ascendant, with Neptune and Jupiter conjunct her Midheaven in Pisces her glamour and charm would have been considerable, not to mention her beauty. But her Sun in Taurus in the eighth house tells another story, and as always with astrology the Sun, our destiny will win out over lesser planets.

Her eighth house Sun in Taurus is part of a Kite formation, an earth Grand Trine of Moon Virgo and Mars Uranus in Capricorn sextile the Midheaven and Jupiter Neptune in Cancer. She also has a T square bringing the Mars, Uranus opposition to the Jupiter Neptune, Midheaven and square a feisty Mercury in Aries on her Descendant.

Lee (born Elizabeth) learned early on that there was no safety. A family friend raped her when she was seven and gave her gonorrhoea, the treatment involved painting her with silver nitrate and disinfecting any surfaces she touched. Such an eighth house experience, the brutal rape, the infection, the toxic touch.

She was a wild child who was expelled from all the schools she attended. Her father favoured her and he took many photographs of her which today would be considered dodgy indeed. At eighteen she moved to Paris to study costume design and lighting. When she returned to the US she studied drama and painting. At 19 she was almost run over by a car and saved by Conde Nash the publisher of Vogue. She appeared on the cover on March 15th 1927, which launched her very successful modelling career.

Although I don’t have the exact time for this, the Sun on that day was conjunct her sixth house Venus Saturn conjunction in Pisces, showing work in fashion (Venus) and Mercury was conjunct her natal Saturn. Interesting that the Moon may have been conjunct Neptune in Leo (very glamorous for Vogue Magazine). In 1929 her picture was used without her consent to advertise Kotex period pads, which finished her modelling career. The eighth house is the house of taboos, and that against menstruation is one of the strongest even today. In 1929 she went to Paris and turned up at Man Ray’s studio announcing she was his new pupil. He replied that he didn’t take students and was going to Biarritz, she said she was going there too. She worked with him and became his lover. He photographed her many, many times as if trying to understand her, but with an eighth house Sun she was elusive and unknowable.

Lee described an incident when a mouse ran over her foot in the developing room and when she switched on the light during developing developed solarisation. This process gives photgraphs a ghostly effect. This happy accident mirrored the surrealiest idea that unconscious mistakes were integral to art.

Lee moved in surrealist circles and became close friends with Picasso and Cocteau. After a falling out with Ray of attribution of their joint work, Lee returned to New York in 1932 and opened a photographic studio. She met Penrose a surrealist artist in Paris and moved to London to live with him. When war broke out in 1939, Lee became the official war photographer for Vogue and photographed the Blitz. In 1942 she was accredited by the War Department she recorded the liberation of Paris, and the horror of Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps.

Lee Miller in 1943 taken by the US War Office

One of her most famous images was Lee taking a bath in Hitler’s bathroom the day he committed suicide, April 30th 1945.

Hitler’s bath: estimated time of 20h00.

Neptune, the planet of photography was conjunct her Ascendant that day and opposite her fearless and provocative Mercury in Aries, while Saturn was conjunct her Midheaven at 6 Cancer. Although we don’t know what time the photo was taken, it was after they had visited the Death camp at Dachau because Lee deliberately trod the dirt of the camp throughout Hitler’s apartment, so I am guessing it was evening time. The Moon was in Sagittarius (the truth teller) applying to conjunct her natal Pluto at 22 degrees, the perfect symbolism for a trip to hell followed by an expose. Lee said her intention was to document the Nazi atrocities to give an eyewitness account of the war. The images reflect the incontravertible evil of the holocaust. They were used in a broadcast by Ed Morrow and Richard Dimbleby inside Bergen-Belsen camp, to prove to people the horror which had happened there. Many of the hundreds of photographs she took can be seen on her website, http://www.leemiller.co.uk set up by her son Anthony Penrose. One in particular sums up her courage and profesionalism, it show US soldiers opening up a cattle truck stuffed with the bodies of dead prisoners. The description reads:

‘A rail car in the death train. Doctor Jacques Hindermeyer, a French medical expert who was an eyewitness, stated that Lee Miller took this photograph which he himself could not take because he was too overcome with revulsion when the GI’s opened the door of the rail car and the rotting corpses flopped out.’

After the war, the horror of what she had seen took its toll. Lee suffered from depression and what is now called PTSD. Her Taurus Sun had plumbed the depth of the evil men can do and from that dark, haunted place it is hard to return. She gave up photography and became a gourmet cook (serving the living) a very wholesome Taurean pastime which may have kept her grounded and alive.

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