In Photos: What Does Love Look Like?

In Sean Marc Lee’s photography, there’s always a sense of being in between moments. Even in images where there are no people, it feels like someone just stepped out of the frame a few seconds before. When there are people, they always appear as though they are headed somewhere or coming from somewhere. If you’re not waiting for something to happen, you’re in the afterglow of something you’ll never know about.

“As far as I can remember, my father had cameras (from film SLRs to polaroids and point and shoots) around the house shooting us since we were children. When I was about 2 or 3, he bought one of the first consumer video cameras. Back then it was a bulky shoulder mounted camera attached to an external tape deck recording on Betamax which he would use to film us just living our daily lives, walking around the house, poking bugs outside, etc.”

Growing up, my siblings and I were constantly exposed to movies of all sorts, from Hong Kong action films in seedy theaters in Chinatown to Hollywood films and doses of classics from Hitchcock to Scorsese. By the time I was in high school, I started borrowing his cameras and messing around with it to shoot friends at school and getting into skate photography.

I believe my first photos with the SLR were probably of a seagull eating food my friends and I threw at it during lunch time. Of course, it was common then for people to carry disposable film cameras that we took on school trips or birthday parties and develop them at the local drug store.”

But what can seem shocking at first is the extent of intimacy that’s on display in Sean’s photographs. In pictures of his father and girlfriend, they look right into the lens of the camera, but they don’t feel like people. Their humanity is present, but really only as ideas. We are not seeing them as they are, but as how Sean sees them.

Back in September, Sean’s work appeared in CO-NEKOTATION ERA!—an exhibition held in Shinjuku in Tokyo subtitled, “Life with cats and women.” In one particular image, Carina, his girlfriend, cuddles their cat while its tail pokes out from between her legs. It’s a picture of home life, of life most would prefer to keep hidden from prying eyes.

Is his father performing for himself, his son, or for the people his son's work is speaking to?

“Photography I personally like and enjoy, is about viewpoint. I want to see and feel how a photographer sees the world, be it a person, object, their cat or some strange quirky thing they noticed out on a walk or with a person they know. It’s about the intimacy and relationship a photographer has with the world around them. And since this is what I personally look for in work I admire, I think that makes me ok sharing it with others because I appreciate seeing good work, the more personal the better.”

His friends call this his “love filter.” To us, his photography is a reminder of a different way of remembering different things: Where we were, who we were with, who these people were trying to be, and who we wanted them to be. At each of these moments is a different reason to love someone. We can never have just one of these reasons without any of the others.
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