Edition 2009

presented by CHRISTIAN CAUJOLLE

SEAN LEE

Method

SEAN LEE AND SHAUNA. Photography, as we all know, can be deceptive. Its ambiguous relation with reality and its capacity to delude us into believing that the images it offers are ‘true’ and ‘objective’ are precisely the source of its fascination. Young Singaporean Sean Lee uses this aspect of photography in a decidedly unsettling manner—even more so because what he depicts is in itself unsettling. With a beautiful, sensitive mastery of colours and a mix of amusement and gravity, he presents Shauna, a character of his own creation: a pretty Asian ‘lady boy’, an elegant night owl surrounded by his transvestite friends, posing on stage, chatting in clubs, sitting smoking on the edge of a billiard table or crossing the street. And yet Shauna is also Sean, who both embodies and photographs her in a role-playing, cross-dressing game which Marcel Duchamp, Claude Cahun, Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman, among others, have used to question the notion of gender. The plot thickens when we are told that Sean is absolutely not homosexual, that he proudly proclaims his love of women and explains that he made up Shauna as a tribute to feminine beauty. Thus, he says, when dressing and living as a girl he is not pushing a sexual choice to its limits. Complex, sincere, in turn playful and grave, his approach consists above all in questioning the notion of ‘beauty’ central to many contemporary issues. One thing for sure: Sean and Shauna love each other very much.
Christian Caujolle

METHOD is a personal exploration and externalisation of my uncharted emotional and psychological world. Although a heterosexual male, I have created Shauna as a means through which I enter this troubled and, at times, unbearable terrain. In my work, Shauna, a transsexual, is presented in both public and private moments. Shauna’s fears, her vanity and, at times, her unmitigated lack of interest in those within her orbit are all laid bare. Situations of intense emotional engagement and implacable despondency punctuate the oeuvre. At times surreal and otherworldly, the images are also harshly realistic. The series powerfully assimilates actual and constructed reality through the personage of Shauna, simultaneously a real person and a concept. I’ve found through my practice that themes of isolation, longing and silence suffuse my work.
Sometimes as myself, Sean, and sometimes as Shauna, I continue to navigate both an unfamiliar external landscape and my restive inner world. The process of transforming myself into Shauna and back into Sean takes hours, with significant personal impact, both physically and mentally. Method is an ongoing project.
Sean Lee

www.seanthephotographer.com.
Prints by DUPON Digital Lab.
Framing by Jean-Pierre Gapihan.

  • Institutional partners

    • République Française
    • Région Provence Alpes Côté d'Azur
    • Département des Bouches du Rhône
    • Arles
    • Le Centre des monuments nationaux est heureux de soutenir les Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles en accueillant des expositions dans l’abbaye de Montmajour
  • Main partners

    • Fondation LUMA
    • BMW
    • SNCF
    • Kering
  • Media partners

    • Arte
    • Lci
    • Konbini
    • Le Point
    • Madame Figaro
    • France Culture