|Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, United States on 2016-05-01 17:18Z by Steven|
The backs of found photos from the writer’s “Mrs. X” collection. Credit Jens Mortensen for The New York Times
The photographs were Polaroids, taken between the 1970s and the 2000s. Zun Lee bought them at flea markets, at garage sales or on eBay. Most of them depicted African-Americans: people wearing stylish clothes, relaxing in the yard, celebrating birthdays. A few depicted people in prison uniforms. All the photographs had somehow been separated from their original owners and had become what Lee calls “orphaned Polaroids.”
Found photographs have long been important to artists like Lee. Photos taken by amateurs can sometimes acquire new value on account of their uniqueness, their age or simply the knowledge that they were once meaningful to a stranger. As part of a group, they can evoke a collector’s sensibility or tell us something about a historical period in a way professional photographs might not. For Lee, collecting found photographs of African-Americans — a project he called “Fade Resistance” — had an additional and deeply personal meaning.
Lee was raised in Germany by Korean parents. In his 30s, his mother told him that the man who raised him was not his biological father. But because her relationship with that man, who was black, had been fleeting, she refused to tell her son more about him. This revelation, at once momentous and limited, changed Lee’s life. To make sense of his personal loss, and to explore his connectedness to black America, he took up photography. I became friends with Lee around the time he began making pictures of black fathers and their children in the Bronx and elsewhere; that project led to a book, “Father Figure,” for which I wrote a preface. Later, Lee began to collect the Polaroids — thousands of them — that ended up in “Fade Resistance.”…
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