Selections from the Projects series (1997-2001) by performance photographer Nikki S. Lee.
Integrating herself into various ethnic and social groups, Lee explores the nature of identity and practices of representation through these seemingly casual photographs. Comparing Lee’s work to Cindy Sherman’s performance photography, Sylvia Kwon writes for the Asian American Writers Workshop:
Where Sherman distorts, Lee is a more clandestine participant. In Projects, Lee engrafts herself into ethnic as well as social groups; at her best she is a deft chameleon. Part of Lee’s success derives from her surrounding cast, the very community into which she seeks entrance. Lee always reveals her artistic intent before she joins a group’s gatherings and adopts its practices; an acquaintance then takes the photo. “The work I do always needs to involves others,” she explained in an interview with The Creators Project. “I realized I couldn’t understand who I am without the people around me.” In Lee’s photos, the artist appears as though she has actually experienced another life…
While I am a fan of Sherman’s work as well, Lee’s unique techniques are especially interesting. Though simple and informal, these photographs provide incisive commentary on race, gender, and class, demonstrating the depth and significance of Lee’s artistic vision.