Having made a name for himself 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. Lee created fresh, sometimes personal stories and energized a relatively static and staid genre. He became a great pioneer of fashion photography without concentrating on clothes, his pictures were about drama. The striking and sometimes controversial photographic style that centers on storytelling resulted in complicated set-ups and ambitious outdoor productions. These projects created 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.
Jim Lee was born in 1945 to parents who were both MI5 operatives. This childhood marked the beginning of a life that followed anything but a conventional path. At 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 the Swinging London of the 1960s, he began photographing bands like The Who, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones. His portfolio and reputation grew, and Lee became in demand as a fashion photographer. He would work with personalities like the young Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and collaborate 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 solid, enchanting stories and narratives. He helped introduce a new form of visual expression, of which he became a pioneer. His work and his life spilled together, his narratives having a potent 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 and still collaborates on many advertising and fashion projects, covering fashion shows for celebrity designers Alexander McQueen and Zandra Rhodes. Lee’s images place desire in the service of consumption. At the same time, the subject’s eyes are turned away from the lens, where a voyeuristic study of human longing is created. Jim Lee’s photographs ultimately represent a “constructed” reality, believable for the audience to be a captivating, tongue-in-cheek interaction.
SELECTED MUSEUM COLLECTIONS:
• Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK
• Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, RU
• National Art Museum of China, Beijing, CN