Translating Cinema to Still Photography: An Interview with Sam Lee


They say art imitates life, a recreation of reality. For photographer Sam Lee, art is an escape into the world of forms. Being heavily inspired by the moving image such as the shows The Crown, Peaky Blinders, The End of the F**king World and movies like La La Land, Chungking Express, Before Sunrise, and the most acclaimed film of 2019, Parasite, the photographer also resorts to music to get him into the mood. Sam's aesthetic has a quirky combination between vivacity and solitude -- his palette mostly consisting of warm pastels as his muted blacks neutralize the pictures.

Hey Sam! How are you doing these days as a photographer?

I’m doing well, thank you for having me! Been trying to focus more on the quality of my work as opposed to the sheer quantity of it.

When did your interest in film photography start?

It started in the fall of 2019 when I wanted to start taking pictures. I didn’t have that much money at the time so I was just looking for the cheapest camera out there, and it happened to be a film camera! I picked up the canon ae1 for about $100.

You capture a lot of cinema-style photographs. May you share to us your personal reason why you prefer this genre?

I love movies and tv shows because of their cinematic quality so I’ve always tried to emulate that through my work. I like to tell stories through my images and make it look like it is taken straight out of a movie.

We noticed you go for subtler, washed-out looks in your pictures, creating its own 'pastel noir' aesthetic. May you describe to us more about this style of yours?

I try to stay away from super contrasty or saturated images. I like my images to have a dreamy feel to it, almost like it takes place in another world. I also try not to edit my photos too much since the film does a very good job on its own in terms of colour grading.

For you, what makes a good portrait? Which particular places do you love to hold your photo shoots?

For me, a good portrait can relay a feeling or emotion. That’s really all I need.

Where do you usually get inspiration from?

I get a lot of my inspiration from movies and tv shows, music too! Movies like La La Land and shows like euphoria have been big inspirations to me.

If you could work or collaborate with any photographer, artist or person, dead, alive or fictional, who would it be?

Frank Ocean. Without a doubt.

What's the most challenging thing for you right now as an artist?

Having enough money for camera equipment and film. Paying for film and then paying to get it developed adds up very quickly, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Describe to us -- what's a day in the life of Samuel Lee look like when you're not photographing? What do you usually do during your downtime?

It’s very basic at the moment. I’m currently a full-time student majoring in kinesiology so that’s been taking up a lot of my time. If I’m not studying or taking photos I'm usually at the gym or playing soccer! There’s also a very high chance I’m at home watching movies or hanging out with friends. I’ve been striving to maintain a balance in my life through all aspects. I don’t want to focus solely on school, for example, if my health or relationships deteriorate as a result.

Lastly, any on-going project, or other plans you're keen to work on?

I’m actually in the beginning stages of my first photobook! I’m really excited to have the first physical embodiment of my own work. I don’t want just compile my favourite images into a book; I want each image to have an underlying theme that can tie the whole book together. It’s been a slow process but I’m not upset about that because I want this book to be very special.

Loved Sam's spectacular imagery? Learn more about Sam's analogue journey through his Instagram.

2020-02-26 #people #analogue-photography #film-photography #sam-lee

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