When he was a little boy, Antony Penrose once bit Pablo Picasso and often played with a Man Ray assemblage. The son of conflict photojournalist Lee Miller and the painter/writer Roland Penrose, the young Penrose grew up around some of the most influential artists of the 20th century. However, in a recent interview, Penrose says he felt little connection to his mother, who before gave birth to her son had photographed the London blitz and the liberation of Dachau and Buchenwald as a correspondent for Vogue. “For the first 20 years of my life, she was lost to me, deeply affected by post-traumatic stress disorder,” Penrose explains in an interview with the Peabody Essex Museum, which is currently hosting “Man Ray/Lee Miller, Partners in Surrealism.” The exhibition examines the collaboration between surrealist photographer and painter Man Ray and Miller, the former fashion model who in 1929 became Man Ray’s apprentice, frequent subject and at times the victim of his abuse.
Penrose, the author of two books on his mother’s life and photography, tells PEM’s Lisa Kosan that as an adult he eventually became friends with his mom. After her death, he went through her archive with David E. Scherman, a colleague and friend of Miller’s. “He helped me understand that my mother, whom I saw as a useless drunk, had had a career and been incredibly brave as a combat photographer with the US Army Infantry in Europe. He helped me see a different side of the person I’d been embattled with all my life.”
A sculptor who, like Man Ray, works in found objects, Penrose offers some keen insights into the PEM exhibition, his mother’s work, Man Ray’s art, and the philosophy and politics of their fellows in the surrealist movement. The full interview is available as a PDF on the PEM web site, www.pem.org/exhibitions.
If, as therapists say, you’ve only reached full maturity when you can see your own parents as whole people, Antony Penrose is a very mature individual.
What would it be like to assist Josef Koudelka? What could an assistant learn simply by observing and helping the legendary Czech photographer? Koudelka Shooting Holy Land, a new documentary film making its U.S. debut today at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (and showing again this Sunday, July 31), gives viewers an opportunity to... More ›
When Charles Woodard was in the history of photography class taught by Nick Muellner at Ithaca College, he sketched each masterpiece on a 4×6 flash card, to help him memorize the titles and dates for the final exam. His crude lines and stick figures are reductive, but also uncannily recognizable. The gallery Higher Pictures in... More ›
Over the course of five summers, Doug DuBois photographed teenagers living in public housing in a small Irish city of Cobh, depicting scenes of the kids drinking, carousing and coping with the boredom and restlessness that characterizes the period between childhood and adulthood. Photos from the project, published in his book My Last Day at... More ›