Jocelyn Lee (b. 1962, Naples, Italy) received a BA from Yale University in 1986 and an MFA in Photography from the City University of New York at Hunter College in 1992. Beginning in 1990, American photographer Jocelyn Lee spent six years living with teenage mothers and fathers in Texas and Maine to document this social phenomenon as honest as she could. The result was a powerful record which she gave the title: The Youngest Parents: Teenage Pregnancy as it Shapes Lives (1997). Lee found herself in the documentary tradition of Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Diane Arbus. Lee lives and works in Princeton, N.J., and Cape Elizabeth, Maine and lectures photography at Princeton University.
Throughout her career American photographer Jocelyn Lee has explored full length portraits of seemingly unposed, even indifferent subjects. Her beguiling portraits secure not so much an individual likeness but an emblematic presence. Lee borrows from the formal conventions of painting, lending a certain temporal permanence to her subjects while maintaining the potency of the open ended photographic narrative. Manoeuvring back and forth between levels of intimacy and unease, Lee also purposely looks for spaces that are not to distracting, to encourage the viewer to focus on the individual and psychological exchange of the portrait for pertinent clues. When she makes the picture, Lee prefers to wait for the moment when her subjects 'breath their own life into the room' and are no longer aware of the camera. Yet for all their transparency and brilliant details, her subjects, their stories, remain unknown, deftly eclipsing the camera's attempts to capture them.
In addition to portraiture Lee trains her camera in landscape and interior photography. Consistent in her work is a focus on the visual and tactile qualities of the material world, emphasizing the chromatic and textural richness of flesh, fabrics, and foliage. Her fascination with the physical and psychological transitions of people has produced incisive portraits that capture the fraught passage from adolescence to adulthood, as well as the changes that aging registers on the face and body.
Whether her subjects are landscapes, portraits or nudes, Jocelyn Lee's photographs are about beauty and its poignant fragility. The landscapes are not spectacular vistas but quiet places that seem oddly familiar. Sometimes glowing with summer's light and sometimes covered with snow, they endure through all the seasons of the year.
Lee has also assembled a gallery of people, each of whom is remarkable although none of them is famous. She endows every person with a vivid yet dignified presence. Her portraits are full of implicit stories, suggested by bodies and faces, and made all the more compelling by the fact that her sitters seem absorbed in their own memories and dreams.
With a clear and compassionate eye, Jocelyn Lee encourages us to think about eternal issues such as youth and age, our connections with one another, our relationship with nature, and the place - or places - we call home. She states: "The physical landscape serves as a backdrop on which the human drama unfolds. The photographs allude to the fragility of the human presence in the world. These portraits are a way to look at particular people and the human body as a part of nature, evolving and expressing their identity and place in life's cycles."
Her works are in the collections of Maison Europeen de la Photographie, Paris, France; The Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany; The Yale Museum of Art, New Haven, CT; The List Center at MIT, Cambridge, Mass.; The Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME.; The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, NC.; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX.; The Bates College Museum of Art. Lewiston, ME.; and The Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockport, ME. She is represented by Pace MacGill Gallery. Her work has appeared in many national publications including The New York Times Magazine, DoubleTake and Harpers. She teaches at Princeton University.
Jocelyn Lee lives and workks in Brooklyn, N-Y.