This article was originally published on September 2, 2015.
"People definitely had strong opinions about this particular work," begins photographer June Yong Lee. He goes on to describe the polarizing nature of his project, Torso Series
, which led at least one reviewer to compare Lee to Hannibal Lecter. Of course, this doesn't give Lee nearly enough credit. Each photograph is the product of an incredibly meticulous process, in which Lee asks each model to rotate slightly as he takes anywhere from 20 to 30 photos. Once the images are developed, he splices them together to create a single photograph of the model's entire torso.
Unfair pop culture comparisons aside, Lee acknowledges that his photography is bound to bring out strong feelings, and that might be intentional: "Skin [as a subject] is so sensitive… So, with some people getting uncomfortable, I sort of see that as the point of what I’m trying to do," he explains.
"When you look at a person," says Lee, "you look at the shape of the person, but also the surface of their skin — their skin color, what’s written on their skin, [and] those things carry their identities in interesting ways." Although Lee had always been interested in human bodies and skin as a subject, his move from South Korea to the United States intensified his fascination: "When I was in Korea," he explains, "everyone around me was Korean, and their ethnicity or race wasn’t important at all. But then, when I came over here, I realized I was Asian for the first time, which was kind of strange, but that became part of my identity."
Suddenly much more aware of his appearance and how he was seen by others, Lee invested a new kind of meaning his own skin, and thus, in the skin of others. His work holds true to the idea that the skin and the body carry a person's identity and story; each image shows a person's entire midsection, front to back, omitting no scars, tattoos, or birthmarks. They may first strike you as strange, even alien, but a second glance will reveal each photograph to be deeply human — raw and unflinching.
Lee's book is available for order here
Click through for more from Lee's project, in all its haunting beauty.