Mobile Street Photography
“In street photography, the lightness and the darkness around us fascinates me - how our outer world can reflect our inner world and can somehow be intuitively an extension and expression of ourselves” - Lee Atwell, in conversation with LensCulture Contributing Editor, Joanne Carter
To many, street photography is not premeditated and is not typically reportage, in the sense of a series of images displaying different facets of a subject, it is about seeing, it is about reacting. However, Atwell’s street photography is strongly spiritual, it is an approach that is initially at odds with the stereotypical experience that can be awkward and daunting. It is, in some ways representative as a paradox between the very being of life and the very existence of humanity.
As a yoga practitioner since childhood, Atwell takes photographs as part of a mediative experience, enabling her to be present within the environment surrounding her. When Atwell takes a great shot, she feels it, her emotional involvement with the subject is such that a high degree of empathy is borne through her images. Lee’s photography conveys the sense of intimacy and shared personal space that are hallmarks of street photography. One of Atwell’s cherished images is of an angel walking the streets of Seattle, it is reminiscent of a favourite, classic noir film - Wim Wenders, “Wings of Desire”; where normally invisible angels who watch over us are visible and where they offer the possibility of hope when life can feel hopeless, and support the intuition that we are not completely alone - that there is lightness within the dark.
The reclusive and intensely private female street photographer of the 1950’s Vivian Maier plays a strong influence on Atwell’s photography. Fascinated by her ascent from reclusive eccentric to esteemed photographer, there’s a likeness to the compelling images of the local characters of Chicago that Maier captured, to the climatic photographs that Atwell epitomises of Seattle. Atwell’s images are as unpretentious as the life they document, no visual drama is added, no single shot is staged, she never uses flash and never asks. Her images remain tangible and become part of her observation, in many ways the photographer and viewer transpire as part of the same scene - just as the subjects in the photographs themselves. She brilliantly blends, capturing candid moments, whilst the subjects are oblivious to her presence. Composition is a crucial aspect of street photography and one that needs cultivating, Atwell’s images sing.
With her Apple iPhone 5s and her favoured Hipstamatic app, Atwell has been recognised for her photographic artistry and has been presented with several International Photography Awards, as well as having her photographs exhibited in several cities - in the USA, Canada, Italy, & Portugal.
Atwell’s images have great clarity, they need no explanation. In Atwell, we are looking at a photographer who has a deep-rooted and profound view of the world with an intuition that allows her to treat the street as theatre, witnessing the dynamics of life with the gaiety of poetry.