International Spotlight: Kiwi Erin Lee travels the world

Kiwi photographer Erin Lee has been travelling the world, exploring her interest in photography, and she's experienced some incredible stories that she has managed to convey to audiences through her documentary photography work. We caught up with the roaming photographer to find out how she got started and where she is heading. 

D-Photo: Can you please give us a rundown of your photography?

Erin Lee: I started taking photos when I was 15. I learned to shoot analogue and develop and print in a darkroom. After studying photography in Christchurch I went on to work in studio photography between Melbourne and New York.

Can you explain a bit about yourself?

I am originally from New Zealand, but I am currently based in Mexico City, where I have been for the past four years. I work as a photographer in editorial and documentary, and I’m also a tutor in a photography school and I sometimes give workshops.  Mexico City is a remarkably stimulating place to be as a photographer, a very chaotic place full of contradictions where people live strongly in the moment, but out of all the chaos comes huge inspiration and creativity, which reaches all levels of society.

What sparked your interest in the photography realm?

As a teenager I really loved art class — although I was really bad at it, I could never draw or paint, but I loved it! So when I discovered photography I fell in love because it was a way to express my ideas without having to use a pen or a paintbrush! Since then I have tried different styles of photography and worked in different areas in order to figure out what I really like.

How would you describe your style of photography?

These days I do a lot more documentary work, but I am also interested in experimenting with conceptual and contemporary projects. Documentary photography [is something] I am drawn to because it’s a matter of creating your own interpretation of what is going on in a certain situation. As a photographer you have a responsibility, but also a flexibility, to portray that situation, so I think it is interesting how one creates that balance.

Can you outline what is in your equipment kit at the moment, and what gear you are enjoying using?

I have a Canon 5D Mark III and only a few lenses — I like to travel with a simple kit. I like to use fixed lenses, like a 40mm for street photography, and a 50mm or 80mm for portraits. I also have a Bronica Zenza medium-format camera, if I feel like using film.

What projects have you got on the go at the moment? What will you be working on in the future?

I recently went to an international art festival and human rights meeting in one of the refugee camps for Sahrawi people near Tindouf, Algeria. Morocco took control of most of Western Sahara in the early 1970s and still claims sovereignty over much of the land, so these people have been refugees for over 40 years now, making it Africa's longest-running territorial dispute. So I am currently working on those images and preparing for a group exhibition.

I will be in Mexico for at least another year, and then, who knows, [it] may be time to go somewhere new. I am also currently working on a project with photographs that I took along the Mexico / US border, and [I am] creating new work involving the past and future stories of some of the people I met there, which I will make into a book in 2017.

If people want to see more of your work, where would you suggest they visit?

Website: erinleephotography.com
Instagram: @erin_lee_photo