Film Photographer Interview | Rachel Minn Lee

Tell us about yourself and your photography

I love to read, and often prefer to spend time with fictitious characters that seem to live the best journeys. Words from poems and stories inspire me to create form. To me, photography has always been about the human intersections in our fragile, every day moments. In choosing this medium (film) , I use photography to act as a witness, a poetic statement that can be interpreted in a million different ways.

For a whole year, I started taking photographs with a cheesy toy camera, using a batch of expired film (Solaris Ferrania) as it was way cheaper. I spent half of my lunch break in the street, and the other half, eating. That was 3 years ago, and I am still making photographs in film. I never knew that I would like photographing, or that the images I created could be exhibited or made into a book.

You recently participated in a Magnum photography workshop, can you tell us about that? 

I was super happy to be selected for the Magnum workshop in Singapore last year, as the Magnum photographer Jonas Bendiksen has published two books, 'Satellites', and 'The Places we live'. The stories resonated with my own explorations, both books are about journeys, the story of a glimpse into the hidden and forgotten places of the former Soviet regime, and the lives in slums in our modern cities. Seeing how he is compelled to continue his meaningful, personal projects and journeys - and having fun doing it - inspires me to continue in my own way.

Writing plays a big role in your life and your photography compliments the writing. Any tips you could share to help other photographers write more easily?

One of the tips we always see very often is to 'write daily'. To be honest, I was never able to achieve this! What aids in writing, for me, is to have a comfortable, non-disruptive place to write without interruption. It could be from the comfort of home or at a nice coffee place. As with photography, I observed that many of the images we see produced today are taken and posted with an intention to show others what we ate, where we went, etc. 

I started off taking these photographs in the book and in most of my portfolio purely for my pleasure, not to impress anyone about how good I am at taking photographs. I try to apply the same approach to what I write. 

Ultimately, I develop some ideas over a few days and give myself a deadline, revisit the piece of writing over some time, it could be many days later - read it back, and see if I still like it. I guess I write because I would like my photographs to be accompanied by a little bit of me, I want the people who actually like my photographs to get to know me a little better.

Are you shooting strictly film now, or digital as well? 

People always assume that I am some sort of purist when they discover that I never have edited or process my photographs, they look exactly as they are when they are developed out of the film roll. And indeed I have been shooting strictly in film since I started this hobby, but this is because I do not have any commercial projects, and a part of me feels annoyed to spend long hours sitting in front of a computer screen. 

I am unsure if I would eventually photograph in digital, it is definitely easier and more immediate in many ways, but using digital does not feel like I am selling my soul or anything like that, it is just another photographic medium of which I have not been acquainted with yet.

Your latest project My Everyday Marseille, is it all film?

All the photographs are on 35mm film, using a variety from redscale, black and white, and some cross processed types of film. For most of the journey, the cheesy toy camera traveled along with me. On my final trip there, I used my father's old Nikon SLR camera, which was surprisingly still working after more than 30 years spent sitting in a box.


Tell us about My Everyday Marseille and your journey

When I started to take these photographs, it was to capture the moments - purely for myself, a selfish pleasure of remembering. The walk taken towards the city's highest monument, the Notre-Dame de la Garde on the highest point, and having a hilarious moment where two guard dogs looked curiously over the gate at this stranger. Trying to imprint for a long time in my mind, the brilliant turquoise, azure coasts of the Mediterranean sea as it touches the shores of the pebbled beaches in the South of France. The warm breeze flowing through the tiny pines on the rocky Calanques. The simple, spirited moments, bathed in the pink glow of the setting summer sun. 

All these elements were added together, a sort of graphical perfume with the bottled flavor of Marseille, if only I could capture even the sounds and every delicious and fresh scent. This is my small attempt of representing what I've been more than happy to experience, the fragile moments and the human intersections, the everydayness, in Marseille.


Southern California photographer, Cameron Kline, interviewed Rachel Minn Lee about her new project My Everyday Marseille. Connect with him on .