It was November 1932 when Lee Miller returned to New York to open a new photographic studio, despite the difficulties for the American economy due to the Wall Street crash of 1929. In fact, her return to her homeland, at least in a figurative sense, dates back to a few months earlier, when the Julien Levy Gallery – a mecca for surrealist and avant-garde art in general – organized his first exhibition, followed by a second one in December of that same year.
At this time, surrealist photography was struggling to achieve critical artistic recognition and photographers, to make ends meet, were forced to turn to advertising, a field from which Lee Miller obtained her first commissions, given to her by photographer and friend Nickolas Muray. However, thanks to her sharp eye, the studio gradually met with great success and together with her brother Erik – who in the meantime had become her assistant – Lee worked at a rapid pace, first dedicating herself to commercial work, arriving only later at portraiture.
The extreme technical perfection, the stylistic refinement, the different levels of reading hidden in the images and, no less important, the attention given to the context, allowed her to sensitively interpret the feelings and needs of the time. Soon being photographed by Lee Miller became something to boast about in the city’s elite circles.
Lee Miller, true to her restless and extremely exuberant nature, however, soon lost interest in New York life. The trigger came when the Egyptian entrepreneur Aziz Eloui Bey, who she had met some time earlier in Paris thanks to her friend Tanja Regret, arrived in the city.
Lee and Aziz spent intense days together, with her introducing him to her whole family. However, the fact that Lee’s parents know a friend of her is hardly extraordinary, which is why no one expected the photographer to call her mother a few days later to tell her: “this morning we got married!”.
It was July 19th of 1934 when Lee, unpredictable as always, decided to close the New York photography studio to set out on a new trip to Egypt with her husband. For Lee Miller the journey was always more important than the destination. What really motivated her was beginning a new project, and once successful, moving on to the next one.