Today we’d like to introduce you to Christian Lee.
Hi Christian, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I began creating black and white short films in junior high. The work screened at national film competitions, prompting me to continue exploring the endless possibilities offered by visual art. Upon entering high school, I gradually transitioned into photography with a focus on telling empowering narratives about individuals of color and marginalized communities. My work received international recognition from 30+ competitions & publications, including The New York Times (publication digitally + in first print section dedicated to teen art), the Sony World Photography Awards, Vogue Italia’s PhotoVogue, Fujifilm, the University of Cambridge, the Norton Anthology, and the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Though I’ve had the privilege to collaborate with uniquely talented individuals, I never received artistic support and mentorship in a traditional classroom setting, except for a brief introductory film class. I’m largely self-taught, and I operate independently, serving as the only crew member on all of my shorts. I work solely with non-actors and place a huge emphasis on the documentary and non-fiction aspects of filmmaking. I use an affordable DSLR camera to create all of my photographs and edit using the free version of Adobe Lightroom. I spend hours researching open competitions and publication opportunities to further promote my work. It’s nothing fancy, but you don’t need a plethora of resources to create meaningful and impactful art. All you need is a vision and a deep passion for your respective medium. The rest will follow.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
My photographic work encompasses a variety of different styles, ranging from social documentary images to black and white street portraits. I am always in search of a narrative that intrigues me, looking towards my family, my community, and the outside world for potential inspiration. I drove through East Compton to document Latino American horse riders, intimately captured an African American teenager growing up in the suburbs of California, and explored the Central Coast where I photographed migrant workers battling COVID-19 in the fields of Santa Maria. Wherever I am, the camera allows me to distill beauty, chaos, and poignancy into powerful visuals that shed light on the overlooked aspects of society. Envisioning the human condition across a broad range of cultures and perspectives allows me to grow into a more tolerant person who views the world through a humanistic lens.
Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
I reach the peak of my happiness and joy whenever I have a camera in hand. Doing what I love the most inspires me to wake up every morning with a positive attitude. I enjoy creating emotionally intricate work that represents the interior person. It’s so easy to simplify people and to overlook their individual complexities. But I use the camera as a tool to restore dignity and agency that may have been lost through years of misrepresentation. I am delighted by the fact that my art possesses the ability to encourage social change and to renegotiate the way minorities and marginalized groups have been visualized.
All photos – Christian Lee