Lee O’Connor is pretty dope. Her photography chronicles a myriad, multi-layered look at women. The gaze is deep, with a attention to the complicated intricacies of identity, along with influences from high fashion and street culture.
Lee launched an indiegogo campaign to fund her latest project: a book, Birds of Paradise. In the description, she states: “This is a 64 page, softcover book, with 30 of my favorite portraits that I’ve taken since I began the series. This project is very close to my heart, and I’m really excited to share these images with the world.” With such beautiful and breathtaking photography, it’s a book that needs to be made. The campaign ends on 4/18.
I spoke with Lee about her impressive work, creating art, and living in Greenpoint.
GP: What inspires you?
Lee: Pretty much everything that has a touch of the absurd, or a heightened presence about it- Surrealism, the uncanny, early snapshot photography, the work of Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, captured in-between moments, theatricality in everyday life.
GP: Your work takes an intense, focused look at women. What inspired you to use women as your subject matter?
Lee: They are the most beautiful subject to photograph. I also gravitate towards shooting women because it’s a way of understanding myself, and my life experience as a female, and my place in the community of women. I think photographs always reveal as much about the shooter as they do about the subject.
GP: How did you end up in Greenpoint?
Lee: I moved to Manhattan in 2003, and wound up in Soho. After a year, I had to retreat to a borough that was a little more low-key. I was living right at the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, and the energy was too frenetic, so I heard talk of a neighborhood called Greenpoint. I decided to check it out, and I’ve never looked back! Been here almost 11 years.
GP: How does Greenpoint impact your work?
Lee: I think it’s a haven of artists and creative types, and I am always inspired walking around the streets.
GP: What is your creative process?
Lee: I usually think of ideas while riding trains or looking through early photography books. I’m not a street shooter (for this project, I approached the women and scheduled a portrait session for a later date), so I usually have to plan everything out before I create.
GP: You’ve lived in the neighborhood for ten years. What are some of your favorite hang outs?
Lee: I love Cafe Edna, it’s around the corner from me. Also Beloved, for dancing, and Keg and Lantern, for it’s suburban vibe. Also love the new bar Ramona — great date spot!