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    Updated on Jan 24, 2019. Posted on Mar 9, 2015

    23 Pictures Show How Strangely Beautiful The 1940s Really Were

    Take a look inside the bizarre and beautiful world of Life Magazine photographer Nina Leen, aka "The Lenslady."

    In 1939, a young photographer named Nina Leen fled Europe from fascist rule and began her career in America as one of Life Magazine's first female photographers.

    A new exhibition at Daniel Cooney Fine Art in New York City celebrates her prolific career and shows her unique talent for transforming the everyday into surreal and seemingly mystical photographs.

    Nina Leen / Via Time Inc.

    A young girl trying to determine which lipstick shape will look right with her facial structure.

    Nina Leen was born in Russia and had already established herself as a respected photographer in Europe before migrating to America during the onslaught of World War II.

    She was heavily influenced by surrealism in the arts and would translate that influence into representations of American culture and lifestyle.

    Nina Leen / Via Time Inc.

    Six high school sorority girls re-enact a secret initiation ritual by candlelight — only real sorority members have ever seen the real thing.

    Nina Leen / Via Time Inc.

    Popular shoulder-length hairstyle worn by teenagers in the 1940s.

    One of her most popular and bizarre photo essays was on Tommy Tucker, a celebrity gray squirrel who would dress up like a real person in the 1940s.

    Nina Leen / Time Inc.
    Nina Leen / Time Inc.
    Nina Leen / Via Time Inc.
    Nina Leen / Time Inc.
    Nina Leen / Time Inc.

    Many of her photos also acknowledged the incredible strain of World War II on daily life in America.

    Nina Leen / Via Time Inc.

    A man using a large set of tongs to hold a large block of ice, illustrating one of the shortages of goods during the war.

    Nina Leen / Time Inc.
    Nina Leen / Time Inc.

    Mannequin dressed to illustrate the clothing shortage during WWII.

    Other pictures represented shifting gender roles in popular culture and provided insight into future tech.

    Nina Leen / Via Time Inc.

    A view of a built-in oven in a kitchen-of-tomorrow exhibit.

    Nina Leen / Via Time Inc.

    Members of the Young Women's Republican Club of Milford, Connecticut, explored the pleasures of tobacco, poker, the strip tease, and such other "masculine" enjoyments. Here, the women play poker and smoke.

    Nina Leen / Via Time Inc.

    A sleeping man rests his head against a photograph of actress Hedy Lamarr reproduced on a fabric pillow.

    Another of her more popular photo essays featured the cute (and sometimes stubborn) pets of New York City's revered celebrities of the era.

    Nina Leen / Via Time Inc.

    Metropolitan Opera's Helden tenor Lauritz Melchior with his wife, petting his Great Dane dog on street.

    Nina Leen / Time Inc.
    Nina Leen / Time Inc.

    Left: Music conductor Andre Kostelanetz with his sheepdog Puff gets attention from a young admirer on the street. Right: Actor John Boles pulls and coaxes his stubborn schnauzer puppy to leap over concrete curb on street.

    Nina Leen / Via Time Inc.

    Actress Joan Roberts clad in costume for the musical Oklahoma, laughs as her English bulldog Goggles lifts his leg on a streetlight.

    Over the course of her career with Life Magazine, Leen shot more than 50 feature cover stories and released 15 books of her photography.

    Nina Leen / Via Time Inc.

    Young businessman carrying briefcase stands on city street.

    Nina Leen / Via Time Inc.

    Teenage boys heckle girls at a hen party in Des Moines, Iowa.

    Nina Leen / Via Time Inc.

    Young couples at a formal dance dreamily sway on the crowded floor of dim, chandelier-lit ballroom.

    Nina Leen died in 1995 at her New York City apartment. She was always incredibly secretive about her age, although many believe she was in her early eighties when she died.

    Nina Leen / Via Time Inc.

    Valerie Bettis, modern American dance choreographer, known for her role as Tiger Lily in Inside USA.

    Nina Leen / Via Time Inc.

    A young boy is engrossed in reading a newspaper comic strip while his leash-tethered mutt waits for their walk to continue.

    Nina Leen: Lenslady will be on view at Daniel Cooney Fine Art in New York City from March 26 to May 16.

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