Having made himself a name with his fresh and theatrical take on fashion, Jim Lee is the “original wild child of fashion photography.” Lee’s stylish, theatrical photography is layered with strong narratives. He took photo shoots out of the rigid studios and placed them in a story context becoming a great pioneer of fashion photography who would change the course of the genre. The striking and sometimes controversial photographic style that centers on storytelling particularly meant complicated set-ups and ambitious outdoor productions creating dramatic results that “make you reach beyond the edges of the frame.”
For Jim Lee, storytelling was always at the heart of his work and his life. Lee was born in 1945 to parents who were both MI5 operatives marking a beginning to a life that followed anything but a conventional path. At the young age of 17 he decided to move to Australia where his interest and passion for photography sparked. His time in Australia was full of youthful adventure but, more importantly, it opened up a love for photography that allowed him full creative scope for his imagination.
Back in Swinging London he began photographing bands such as The Who, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. His portfolio and reputation grew and Lee became in demand as a fashion photographer working with personalities like the young Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and collaborating with such influential fashion designers as Yves Saint Laurent and Gianni Versace.
Lee was revolutionary in his time with his distinctly gritty, photojournalistic style, later developing into “a romantic soft-focus frenzy” as described by the photographer himself. He brought to the field of fashion and advertising photography strong, enchanting stories and narrative and therefore introduced a new form of visual expression, of which he became a pioneer. His photography often seems inspired by his own life, his narratives having a strong relationship with its own time, drawing to political events such as the Vietnam War or the Baader Meinhof events.
Today, Jim Lee is an established art photographer but still collaborates on many advertising and fashion projects such as covering fashion shows for celebrity designers Alexander McQueen and Zandra Rhodes. In the beginning of 2012 Lee’s work has been shown in London at Somerset House, to coincide with the launch of his biography Arrested published by Ammonite Press. In Spring 2013 it will be shown at the Multi Media Art Museum in Moscow and the National Art Museum of China in Bejing. Lee’s photographic work has not only been displayed world wide in galleries and museums but is also in the permanent collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum. Lee’s narrative-led, both surreal and filmic, and often risqué images create remarkably alive compositions begging the viewer to “reach beyond the frame.”