Yesterday we went to see the Lee Miller exhibition at the V&A. We were really aiming for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the neighbouring Museum of Natural History, but that was sold out, so it was Lee Miller instead.

She was both a model and a photographer, doing a bit of everything: fashion photography, portraits, photojournalism etc.

The exhibition notes described her as an extraordinary photographer, an icon of photography, or something in that vein. There were some nice photos but on the whole I found her work rather unremarkable. I got the impression that she was famous by association (she was the lover of Man Ray, and friends with Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau), rather than because of any remarkable talent. Yes, she had guts – photographing the Blitz as well as Nazi concentration camps – but the importance of those photos seemed more documentary than artistic to me.

It didn’t help that all introductory and explanatory texts seemed written by a gushing friend rather than anyone with any real knowledge. This, for example, is all they had to say about why she is important or interesting:

Lee Miller (1907 – 1977) is one of the most remarkable female icons of the 20th century – an individual admired as much for her free-spirit, creativity and intelligence as for her classical beauty. Charting her transformation from muse to ground-breaking artist, this centenary exhibition provides a unique exploration of her life and unprecedented career as a photographer.

Lots of superlatives and big words, little information, and very little to put any of it in any context.