Sean Lee’s work two people has evolved into its current and hopefully not yet final form over the last ten years. Throughout this time, he has consistently questioned his own relationship with his family, while also simultaneously negotiating his role as photographer. Across all the chapters of the work there is a continuous shift in familial negotiations. While the work starts with him observing his family from the all too familiar distance that traditionally forms a classic documentary approach, this distance is disregarded in the subsequent chapter, called the garden, and we are taken even closer to his parents, their skin and hair abstracting into landscapes. These landscapes of wrinkles and withering skin become quiet acknowledgments of time (limited time), death and a foreseen loss. Subsequent chapters are rooted in Sean’s early performance practice, with him directing his family in ways that contort their bodies into sculptures to further explore the physicality of those bodies. His parents then continue to take stage to create wonderfully absurd scenes that pry open the dynamics between them. It is always the undercurrent of a yearning to touch that ties all the chapters together. Many years ago Sean explained to me that in Singapore there is a certain emotional distance within the family that may be unfamiliar to someone from another culture. Sean had recognized that distance and the lack of physical contact between his parents and had used photography to get them to touch each other. But what started out as playing these games to simply initiate physical contact had, over time, evolved into a much larger construct of performances from where he could start to allude to further layers that constructed the dynamics within the idea of a family in Singaporean society. While the restricted format of this publication may not justify the malleability and range of Sean’s approach, I hope it at least becomes a starting point from which to introduce to a larger audience in a different part of the world a photographer asking different questions on the all too familiar subject of home and family.
Sean Lee’s work was nominated ten years ago by several renowned photo festivals from Angkor to Arles and Singapore before being exhibited worldwide. His first body of work Shauna was completed between 2007 and 2009 and published as a book in 2014. Sean Lee was born in 1985 in Singapore, where he grew up and currently lives.
Sohrab Hura was elected nominee member of the famous magnum photos agency in 2014. Born (1981) and based in India, he created a strong body of work about his mother in the series Life is Elsewhere and Look It ’s Getting Sunny Outside!!!. He also coor dinates the Anjali House children’s photography workshop which takes place each year during the Angkor Photo Festival in Cambodia.
Sohrab Hura nominated Sean Lee for this edition of PHOTOPAPER. It has 16 pages. Images above showing selected pages.