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It is par for the course that parents take photographs of their children. What happens when children take photographs of their parents, not in childish fun, but with artistic intent? The photographs from Sean Lee’s new book Two People are interesting for what they show about the parent-child relationship when the power to make images passes from the parents to the child.

The parents pose theatrically in these photographs. They must have done so according to the instructions of the photographer-son. Did the theatrical poses free the parents from self-consciousness? Or did they feel a measure of control when they pose theatrically because they become actors, and not merely the acted upon?

As they became more comfortable with the process, did they modify their poses according to some idea of their own? Did they even give suggestions to their photographer-son on what would make a good photographic subject? Did they begin to participate in the making of their images?  Looking at these photographs raises questions about artistic control and collaboration. These are not images that purport to show who these people are. Pearl Lee, the photographer’s sister, wrote an interesting note on the making of these images.

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All images used with the photographer’s permission.

Two People is one of 20 books of photography that are being released in the run-up to Singapore’s 50th anniversary in 2015. You can read more about the project at twentyfifteen.sg. There is more photography on Sean’s website.

About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.

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