Nikki S. Lee, "The Drag Queen Project (1)", 1997, ed# 3/5

Nikki S. Lee, “The Drag Queen Project (1)”, 1997, ed# 3/5

Nikki S. Lee

Nikki S. Lee is a tour guide of and through snapshot culture. Combining the realms of snapshot photography and anthropological documentation, she takes us through the worlds of skateboarders, senior citizens, exotic dancers, the hip-hop community, lesbians, Korean schoolgirls, tourists, residents of Ohio , Hispanics, and yuppies amongst other “groups.” Within each series her presence is initially seamless, as she masterfully assumes the various aesthetic tropes of her current project. In encountering each individual image Lee enables us to see how each group sees itself before the camera. Her “snapshots” reveal the moments a given group chooses to record themselves, to represent themselves and by leaving the picture’s composition and moment up to the person whom she has passed her camera to while she and her friends pose, Lee creates the opportunity for us to see how we see.

In the juxtaposition of single images from multiple projects Lee becomes the unifying constant. Her presence as cultural surveyor is reminiscent of the children’s game Where is Waldo – the purpose of each puzzle being to find the true Waldo within a sea of Waldo-look-alikes . However the true prize in the Waldo puzzles are always the fascinating and playful things the other Waldos are doing. Similarly in Nikki S. Lee’s images what we think has become a search for the “star” of each image turns around and causes us, the viewer to become concerned, not with who is she but rather who are we.

Nikki S. Lee was born in 1970 in Kye-Chang, Korea. She has had solo exhibitions in galleries and museums in the United States, Europe and Japan, and has participated in many international group shows. Her photographs are in the collections of such institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the International Center for Photography, the Albright Knox Gallery and the Hessel Collection on extended loan to the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. Nikki lives and works in New York. She is represented by Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, NYC.