Nikki S Lee (sub cultures and transformations)

Nikki S Lee

Sharon Boothroyd says of Lee that she

finds subcultures, transforms herself physically and includes herself in the picture so that she blends in with the group and becomes one of them … for example she has ‘become’ a Chinese tourist, a Puerto Rican woman, a hip hop fan, a runner, a bride ….

Lee is questioning the authenticity of the photograph and just because she is portrayed as a hip hop fan or a bride doesn’t mean that she is one. It is just a photograph after all.

Projects (1997 – 2001) shows Lee immersed in different American sub cultures, taking on a different identity with each group she is with. This involved adopting the ‘codes’ of the group.

I remember being in a classroom as a teenager and the tutor explaining about society’s expectations of behaviour and the ‘social codes’ of certain situations. She asked how we would we feel and respond if we went to see a doctor and the doctor started dealing a pack of cards. It is something I remember years later and has reinforced the notion of how we are expected to behave depending on the situation we are in. Similarly, during my English degree we considered spoken codes and how we change our speech (style shifting) to be appropriate to the situation we are in.

In Lee’s image below, she has adopted an iconic punk style through her clothing and hair. I have no reason to suspect that she is not ‘genuine’ from this image; she certainly looks the part, which poses the question of the reliability of a photograph to portray the ‘truth’.


Nikki S. Lee The Punk Project (7), 1997

(, 2017)



Boothroyd, S (2014) Context and Narrative. Open College of the Arts. (2017). Nikki S. Lee. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Dec. 2017].


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