We first encountered Nikki S. Lee’s work in her book Projects. Nikki is dressed as any young Hispanic girl on the LES, with big gold hoop earrings, and a boob tube top, a hairstyle left over from the ’80s, and some desperately in situ makeup.
She looks very comfortable in the environment. Until it hits you that she’s not Hispanic. You flip through the pages of the book, and all the pages follow the same pattern: Nikki dressed as a yuppie, an old lady, a stripper, a skater. She is visibly invisible; you keep having to ask yourself, “Is that her?”
I find that Lee’s work has a sort of similarity to mine in the sense that she goes into these social groups, mingles with them and then asks if she can be dressed as what they look like, get into the group, pose as one of them and photograph it. I find it amazing how the final image you can’t even really tell if she is really part of that group if you didn’t know about her project. I know that when I first took a look at her work I didn’t even realise she was in ever image until I was told about it. I think my assisted group portraits are similar because I meet up with a group get to know them talk to them about photography, my camera etc. although I dont then get in the group image myself I work with them to create photographs of themselves and see how they interact with each other in front of the camera, if its the same as they usually do or if they are putting on a ‘show’.