You’ve probably seen his shots of scrumptious temaki for ROLL or his amazing captures of the Saigon Punk Rock scene. “A glutton for punishment” as he describes himself, Lee Starnes always has a way to capture the beauty in mundane objects. Today we present to you his take on the Color Palette project and even share with you the playlist he was listening to while doing it.
Hey Lee, tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m a photographer based here in Saigon for the past 8 years. In my former life, I worked in the F&B industry for over a decade, so working with restaurateurs, chefs, and other hospitality misfits is like working my tribe. It’s hard to describe how working in the hospitality industry affects work ethic, drive and attention to detail. I really don’t think I’d be where I’m at if it weren’t for all those years behind bars and in kitchens.
My work ranges from travel to food to product to music. They all tick different parts of the creative part of my brain and keep things interesting and keeps me on my toes. For work, I shoot mostly commercial images, but as my hobby I love street photography. Keeping these separate keeps me in love with shooting while still being able to have it as my profession without burning out on one particular area of photography.
For You, how does colors/Art Make the Invisible- Visible?
I feel art often gives a voice to sometimes otherwise unexpressed sentiments. The zeitgeist is so nuanced and difficult to really express in any particular medium, so it’s really interesting to look across music, visual arts, architecture and writing to really dig into different times and places. Inspiration wise, every time I feel like my work is becoming flat, I often look to other art mediums for new eyes rather than other photography. Whether it's the imperfections in analog printing to the intricacies of developing typefaces they all give depth and inspiration. During lockdown, I also found inspiration in finding beauty in the mundane. Having the time to slow down and focus also gave time to find patterns, textures, intrinsic beauty in seemingly everyday scenes and items. Being a food product photographer allows me to build scenes from nothing and really dial into these little details. It’s deeply therapeutic and undoubtedly got me through these past few months of confinement.
I’m also a big fan of modernism when it comes to art. Dadaism, Cubism, Art Deco and the movements in art, music and literature following World War I. It was such a dynamic crossroads in time and so many amazing things came from this time. Jazz- the embodiment of improvisation mixing African rhythm and European melody - it’s incredible. I love how art has historically been a way to reconcile perceptions of reality and how struggle can produce such powerful voices.
Thanks for collaborating with us on this color palette project! Could you tell us about the process of shooting this majestic photo?
I wanted to stay true to the palette while bringing my own personal style. As I said earlier, the mundane or ordinary has a beauty that is so often overlooked. On top of that, I wanted to focus on one of my favorite items in my collection of props-the Bia Hoi glass. Made from recycled glass, these glasses are beautiful in their imperfections. Hand-blown, they have bubbles, blemishes and each one is unique. In an age of ever increasing homogenization, these are examples of how beauty lies in the imperfect. And it's such a uniquely Vietnamese piece of craftsmanship. For the surface, I tried to pay homage to the texture of the wall. As for the splash I wanted to create something that reflected this moment of time we’re in. Coming out of lockdown has been like doing a cannonball back into the hustle and bustle of work, play and life all at the same time. It’s been a huge adjustment and I feel like so many of us are struggling to reconcile this lurch back into the frenetic nature of life in Saigon. But here we are. Back into it, a bit messy, but it’s beautiful all the same.
Thank you Lee! Check out more of his works here
As an added bonus, listen to the music he was listening to while shooting and editing this image here
𝘈𝘳𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦, 𝘸𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘰 #𝘪𝘨𝘯𝘪𝘵𝘦, #𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘯𝘦𝘤𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘥 #𝘴𝘶𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘵 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘫𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘴 𝘸𝘩𝘪𝘤𝘩 𝘳𝘢𝘪𝘴𝘦 𝘢𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘪𝘯𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘦 𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘭 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨. 𝘍𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘪𝘯 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘢 𝘸𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘥𝘦𝘴𝘪𝘨𝘯 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘤𝘶𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘮𝘪𝘻𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘧𝘶𝘭 𝘮𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘢𝘨𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘸𝘸.𝘮𝘢𝘳𝘬𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘸𝘢𝘭𝘭.𝘤𝘰𝘮
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