“I photograph because I am interested in people, what it means to be alive, and how we make sense of the world. Whether I am photographing on assignment, or for personal work, the same ideas direct my attention. On the psychological and narrative level, I am interested in looking at states of being: birth, childhood, aging, physical fragility, death, sensuality, the animal world and people in nature.”
Jocelyn Lee has been making psychological portraits for over 35 years. Since her move to Maine 7 years ago, the landscape has taken on a greater role in her work. Her recent work has been made largely out doors with a medium format film camera. All the images, be they of animals, plants or humans beings, describe the tactile and sensual nature of the world and our place, as embodied beings, within this material continuum.
In 2018 she installed a large-scale exhibition of more than 40 photographs at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art titled The Appearance of Things. This body of work encompasses still life, portrait, and landscape photographs, as well as many images that fuse these genres. This mingling is partly what the work is about: creating a shift in perspective where a body (portrait) becomes a landscape; a still life becomes a portrait; and a landscape becomes a body. The works are meant to engage the body of the viewer and become galaxies of their own through the use of space and the dilation and contraction of scale.
The installation evoked the sky at night (the perspective from the deep universe above) looking down at illuminated stages — spotlit moments of real magic occurring all over our extraordinary planet simultaneously.
Most recently Lee has been working on portraits that speak to the invisibility of mature women and, with her sensual treatment of these subjects, calls them back into relevance in a society that has deemed them undesirable and invisible.
Minor Matters Books published a monograph of her naked portraits of women between the ages of 50 and 95, entitled Sovereign, in the Fall of 2020.
Jocelyn Lee was born in Naples, Italy and received her B.A. in philosophy and visual arts from Yale University, and her M.F.A in photography from Hunter College. In 2013 she received a NYFA Fellowship, and in 2001 she received a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Lee has exhibited nationally and internationally, most recently in solo shows at the Huxley-Parlour Gallery, London (2018) and The Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockland, Maine (2018). She has also been included in significant group shows at Flatland Gallery in Amsterdam, NL (2019), The DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts (2018); the Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine (2017) and (2013) for which she won a purchase prize; Wesleyan University (2017); Rose Gallery in L.A. (2017); Pace MacGill Gallery (2017); The Print Space in London, UK (2014); The Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City, MO (2014); and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, WI (2014)
Other significant solo and large exhibitions of her work include a solo show at Flatland Gallery in Utrecht, The Netherlands (2012); Rose Gallery in L.A. (2011) and Pace MacGill Gallery in NY (2010) to accompany her the publication of her monograph Nowhere but here; “Feature Photography” at The National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, (2008); “Last Light” at The University of Southern Maine, Solo (2008); Pace MacGill Gallery in NY, Solo (2007) and Group (2005); The De Cordova Museum in Waltham, MA (2007); The Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockland, ME, Solo (2007); The Bates College Museum of Art in Augusta, ME, (2004); The Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, MA (2004); The Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME, (2004); Jackson Fine Art in Atlanta, GA, (2003); and The LFL Gallery in NYC, Solo (2001).
Her works are in the collections of Maison Europeén de la Photographie, Paris, France; The Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany; The Yale Museum of Art, New Haven, CT; The List Center at MIT, Cambridge, MA; The Portland Museum of Art; Portland, ME; The Nelson Atkins Museum, Kansas City, MO.; The Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME; The Haggerty Museum of Art, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; The Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME; The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, N.C.; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; The Bates College Museum of Art. Lewiston, ME; The Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockport, ME; The Margulies Collection; The Agnes Gund Collection, among numerous other private collections.
Her work has appeared in many national and international publications including The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Photo Raw (Helsinki, Finland), Real Simple, MORE magazine, PDN, DoubleTake, the Hayden Review, Marie Claire (Taiwan), Harper’s and others.