Nikki S. Lee was born in 1970 in South Korea, and is a photographer and filmmaker who was formerly based in New York, but is now living and working in Korea. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Chung-Ang University in South Korea in 1993. Then she moved to New York in 1994 to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. She eventually earned her Masters of Arts degree in photography at New York University.
Some of Lee’s most famous works were called The Projects, which she started doing while still in school, which shows her in various photographs, in which she dresses and poses as various ethnic and social groups, such as Latinos, hip-hop musicians, senior citizens, punks, etc. She does this to immerse herself into every aspect of American sub-culture and she creates another identity of herself. She used a simple point-and-shoot camera, and she would ask the selected group or a passerby to record her. She did not mean for her pictures to look beautiful or anything, but rather to investigate notions of identity. Lee also said that she the project was for one of her graduation requirements.
I feel like Nikki S. Lee wanted to show how we are used to only having one identity and that being many different identities is looked down upon. She showed that you can be many different, such as the The Hip Hop Project, The Hispanic Project, etc. She tries to show the beauty in all these different backgrounds and identities, and I think she does a great job in doing so.
Before this week, I had never seen or heard about this kind of art. But after seeing Nikki S. Lee’s art, I realized that this is one of the most powerful types of art I have ever seen. We are often judged by our identity, and that we cannot have other identities because it is not socially acceptable. Nikki S. Lee showed that you can do just that, and it is beautiful.