Love, lust, and jealousy collide in this racy bohemian art world of 1930s Paris.
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Why I love it
Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Age of Light had me at “a love affair between real-life photographers Lee Miller and Man Ray.” But when I learned it's also the story of a woman who moves beyond muse to artist, I all but threw myself at it and yelled, "Take my money!" I'm a sucker for a woman demanding to be heard.
When Lee Miller arrives in 1930s Paris, she's determined to put her successful modeling career behind her and go behind the lens. Soon, she meets Surrealist artist Man Ray and convinces him to make her not his subject, but his assistant. As the two work closely together, Lee finds her voice as a photographer. Slowly, they fall in love, but quickly, the lines of their relationship blur. Is she his muse or partner? Are they faithful or not? Where does one person end and the other begin?
I never knew just how sensual developing film could be until Lee Miller and Man Ray got into that dark room. And while Man comes to life on the page as a vulnerable and possessive figure, it’s Lee—her tenacity, confidence, and passion for beauty—who steals the show. Her relationship to her body—her understanding of her own beauty, her fearless lust and brazen sexuality—creates some of the most captivating moments of the story. Lee Miller’s time in Paris and how it echoes through the rest of her life is a story I won’t soon forget. I suspect you won’t either.
"I'd rather take a picture than be one," says Lee Miller after she arrives in Paris in 1929. Yearning for a different life and haunted by her past, Lee leaves behind a successful modeling career to pursue her dream of being an artist. She catches the eye of the famous Surrealist Man Ray, and though he wants to use her only as a model, Lee convinces him to teach her photography as well. Man Ray is an egotistical, charismatic force, and their personal and professional lives become intimately entwined as the lines between maker and muse begin to blur.
Lee's story unfolds against the sumptuous backdrop of bohemian Paris, with nights spent at smoky cabarets, opium dens, and wild parties, and days spent working with Man Ray to discover radical new photography techniques. But as Lee begins to find success as an artist in her own right, Man Ray's jealousy spirals out of control, and soon their mutual betrayals threaten to destroy them both.
Told in interweaving timelines of 1930s Paris and war-torn Europe during WWII, this sensuous, richly detailed debut brings Lee Miller—a brilliant and pioneering artist—out of the shadows of a man's legacy and into the light.