Nikki S. Lee - The Skateboarders Project (24)
American, born in Korea, b.1970
The Skateboarders Project (24), 2000
Fujiflex print, 21.5 x 28.25 inches
Edition 1/5

Gift of Nicki and J. Ira Harris (BBA '59)

Born Lee Seung-Hee in Korea in 1970, Nikki S. Lee chose her American name when she came to New York in 1994. After graduating from the University of Korea, Lee moved to New York to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She worked as a fashion photographer’s assistant, and went on to earn her master’s degree from New York University in 1999. Lee’s projects include: The Punk Project (1997), The Lesbian Project (1997), Young Japanese (East Village) Project (1997), The Tourist Project (1997), The Hispanic Project (1998), The Yuppie Project (1998), The Ohio Project (1999), The Swingers Project (1999), The Seniors Project (1999), The Exotic Dancers Project (2000), The Schoolgirls Project (2000), The Skateboarders Project (2000), The Hip Hop Project (2001), and Part (2003). After observing particular subcultures and ethnic groups, Nikki S. Lee adopts their general style and attitude through dress, gesture, and posture, and then approaches the group in her new guise. She introduces herself as an artist (though not everyone believes her or takes it seriously), and then spends several weeks participating in the group’s routine activities and social events while a friend or member of the group photographs her with an ordinary automatic “snapshot” camera. Lee maintains control of the final image, however, insofar as she chooses when to ask for a picture and edits what photographs will eventually be displayed. From schoolgirl to senior citizen, punk to yuppie, rural white American to urban Hispanic, Lee’s personas traverse age, lifestyle, and culture. Part sociologist and part performance artist, Lee infiltrates these groups so convincingly that in individual photographs it is difficult to distinguish her from the crowd. However, when photographs from the projects are grouped together, it is Lee’s own Korean ethnicity, drawn like a thread through each scenario, which reveals her subtle ruse.