Myoung Ho Lee: Tree
Myoung Ho Lee photographs solitary trees framed against white canvas backdrops in the middle of natural landscapes. To install the large canvases, which span approximately 60 by 45 feet, the artist enlists a production crew and heavy cranes. Minor components of the canvas support system, such as ropes or bars, are later removed from the photograph through minimal digital retouching, creating the illusion that the backdrop is floating behind the tree.
The series includes diverse species of trees photographed with a 4x5 camera in a variety of seasons and at different times of day. Mr. Lee allows the tree’s natural surroundings to fill the frame around the canvas, transforming the backdrop into an integral part of the subject. Centered in the graphic compositions, the canvas defines the form of the tree and separates it from the environment. By creating a partial, temporary outdoor studio for each tree, Mr. Lee’s “portraits” of trees play with ideas of scale and perception while referencing traditional painting and the history of photography.
Myoung Ho Lee is a student, lecturer and photographer based in Seoul, Korea. He attracted international acclaim when his series Tree was first published online by Lens Culture in July 2007. Within days, more than 200 other websites and blogs had reproduced his images and pointed to the original article and images in Lens Culture. The buzz continues today, with reproductions of his photographs gracing the covers and inner pages of many high-profile national and international print magazines (of all genres, including art, ecology, entertainment, home decorating, news and men’s fashion), and more than 500 websites referring to his work. His photographs are in the collections of institutions and individual collectors in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America. Myoung’s Tree series has prompted references to diverse traditions in the history of photography, including landscape photography, anthropological field studies, studio portraiture, fashion, staged photography, cinematic projections, surrealism, and billboard advertising. Even though Myoung has been practicing photography for several years (he earned his BA in Photography in 2003, and his Masters in Photography in 2005), it was his conceptual series Tree that catapulted him into minor celebrity status on the internet and in pop culture.