Project 2 Masquerades

Exercise: Is there any sense in which Lee’s work could be considered voyeuristic or even exploitative? Is she commenting on her own identity, the group identity of the people she photographs, or both?

Nikki S Lee (b 1970) transforms herself through clothing, make up, and gestures into a look alike for a specific american subculture and then mingles with a similar group of people. She then asks them to photograph her. Through this she is exploring “issues of identity and social behaviour” (International Center of Photography, 2017). Her groups include, Hispanics, Yuppies, seniors, Hip hops, Tourists, and skateboarders:

seniors ( 2, 2017).

skateboarders6 ( 1 2017).

Apparently “Lee believes that individual identity is fluid and that her Projects were extensions of herself” (Anon, 2017). As she assumes various identities through photography she becomes recognisable only by her own ethnicity.

This work causes you to question: What is the essence of an identity? How do you identify someone and the group that they belong to? How fluid actually is identity?

I don’t find her work voyeuristic or exploitative as in her images the sub groups all look as if they are enjoying sharing her experience with her and are happy to be photographed with her. I think she is commenting both on her identity, it’s fluidity as well as the identities of others.

Trish Morrissey (b ) travelled to beaches in Melbourne and the UK, found family groups and asked if she could assume the identity of one of them (usually) the mother figure, by wearing their clothes and being photographed In their place with the group. The image was then named after the person she replaced in the group.

morrisy (2017). Trish Morrissey. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Trish-Morrissey-Photographs-Katy-McDonnell Mutantspace. (2017). Trish Morrissey Photographs: Front On The Beach | mutantspace. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Trish-Morrisseys-photograph-from-Kingsgate-Bay-2006WideWalls. (2017). A Story of the Proto-Selfie: Self Portrait Photography and Photographers. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

These photographs are probably about family conventions, relationships with strangers, boundaries, trust and to an extent privacy, “Ideas around the mythological creature the ‘shape shifter’ and the cuckoo are evoked” (Morrissey, 2017).  She fits in perfectly and it is only when you view a number the images you notice her as the replacement. I find the concept and the enactment disturbing and most definitely would not agree to her request to replace me within a family photograph.

Morrissey uses self-portraiture in more of her work, namely Seven and The Failed Realist. Look at these projects online and make some notes in your learning log.

 In her “Seven Years” project (2001-2004) she and her sister recreated family photos, impersonating others and changing gender and generations “blurring the line between fact and fiction”( (Morrissey cited in Lens Culture, 2017). The seven years refers to their age difference. She seems fascinated by the idealised version of family life presented in family photos, their awkwardness and the faces that people use for the camera. I find them unsettling but amusing. Unlike her “Front” series I feel they are not exploitative or “cuckoo” like.

morrissey seven.jpg September 20th 1985 (2004). © Trish Morrissey. (LensCulture, 2017)

morrissey 2.jpg  January 25th 1979 (2003). © Trish Morrissey. (LensCulture, 2017)

In her “Failed realist” series she worked collaboratively with her four year old daughter exploring what the psychologist Georges-Henri Luquet (1927/2001) described as The Failed Realist stage, where children’s expression of the world is hampered by their physical skills. In her artist statement she explains:

Once my daughter’s “motor skills evolved sufficiently well for her to control a paintbrush, she wanted to paint me rather than be painted.  Instead of the usual motifs of butterfly, or flower, she would decide to paint something from her immediate experience – a movie she had just watched, a social event, a right of passage, or a vivid dream.” ( 2017).

Tooth-Fairy The tooth Fairy 2011. Trish Morrissey ( 2017)

This is of course another example of self-portraiture being an exploration of others rather than yourself, rather like “Front” and “Seven “ by Morrissey. The worl of Morrissey and  Lee are great explorations of the fluidity of identity.


Anon, (2017). [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

International Center of Photography. (2017). Nikki S. Lee. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

LensCulture, T. (2017). Seven Years – Photographs and text by Trish Morrissey | LensCulture. [online] LensCulture. Available at: [Accessed 5 Apr. 2017].

Morrissey, T. (2017). Front – ZoneZero: photographic convergence. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017]. (2017). Trish Morrissey. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Apr. 2017].

Mutantspace. (2017). Trish Morrissey Photographs: Front On The Beach | mutantspace. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017]. (1) (2017). Nikki S. Lee. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017]. (2) (2017). Nikki S. Lee. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017]. (2017). Trish Morrissey. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

WideWalls. (2017). A Story of the Proto-Selfie: Self Portrait Photography and Photographers. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Please note: Any images by other photographers used on this site are accredited and are being used for personal research and educational purposes only.