Take a look at a photograph by Young Lee. Good composition. The right lighting. An unusual candor and a sense of contact with his subject. But there’s something else, too: a glimpse of a boy in Seoul poring over the piles of amateur photographs his father has taken – on countless family trips, at birthdays and celebrations. Prints of all sizes, of different places, different times and different faces.
Fast forward a dozen or so years to Seattle, where Young takes his first decent shot with tripod, and falls hard for the seduction of good equipment. There’s Jessica, too, his future wife but also a partner who helps him turn this hobby into a passion and a career. Along the way he discovers those who have been there before – the greats like Avedon, Penn and Stieglitz, of course – and where he might like to take it himself.
Now Young’s son and daughter are poking through the piles of prints and contact sheets. The subjects have certainly changed – not only personal photographs now but award-winning commercial images for the region’s top design firms and their clients: Microsoft, Philips, Margaret Casey Foundation, Sun Microsystems and Nordstrom. The equipment is more carefully chosen too – 35 mm for speed, a view camera for quieter shoots, or maybe the new possibilities of digital. Yet at the core it’s the same. An enthusiasm for the process of documentation. A desire to connect with your subject at the same time you investigate it. A love of photography.