Artist of the Week – Nikki S. Lee

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Nikki S. Lee was born Lee Seung-Hee in Korea.  After moving to New York city she selected an American name which lead her to be Nikki S. Lee.  In her beginings she was the assistant to a fashion photographer, David Lachapelle, while she was studying fashion and commercial photography.  Eventually went on to pursue her own artwork.

Lee is best known for her projects series.  In these projects she would spend many weeks assimilating into a cultural group.  Lee would choose different subcultures and change her appearance and behavior to become one of them and then had snap shot pictures taken of her.  She explores identities, age, race, and social classes in these projects.  Lee had members of the selected group or a random person passing buy take pictures of the transformation.

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Her photos seem so raw and real and at first glance they would seem like random snap shots that could be scrap booked until you get a closer look.  At a closer glance Lee is instantly recognizable in these subcultures being a Korean woman but somehow she still fits in.  Each subculture has a dress code and mannerisms that act as a boundary which enabled other members of the group to relate to each other as well as create a division of people not like them.  Each picture is stereotypical to that subgroup but I think it is meant to be that way.  Through these pictures she demonstrates that identity is socially and culturally constructed.

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By doing these projects she breaks the social barriers between these subcultures.  Her photography reminds me how different people are but we are all similar.  In my opinion I think her pictures are somewhat overly stereotyped.  Whether it was intentional or not I think by doing this I think she is addressing the prejudices each community is faced with.

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Her photography is my favorite by far in this course.   I like the casualness of the photos and their rawness.  Each project series is so drastically different from one another.  She is truly a chameleon at blending in and exploring her own identity within different cultural groups.

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