Lee Corkett

Lee Corkett (www.leecorkett.com) is an editorial, portrait, and performing arts photographer based in Los Angeles. From an early age he’s loved to explore the world, both with a camera and without, and first began his personal career in photography as a teenager by reading every book he could find at his local library. After moving to California from his home in Canada, he pursued formal education in photography, followed by a degree in Sociocultural and Visual Anthropology. His interests lie not just in how photographs are made, but why they’re made, how we use them and how we can understand ourselves through them. He’s been teaching since his early twenties when he accepted a teaching position in Indonesia and has received several awards in both the visual arts and the social sciences. He is currently working on several curatorial projects, as well as a portrait series depicting the Middle Eastern and Tribal Fusion dance scene in California.

Lee Corkett Portfolio

Julia Dean Interviews Lee Corkett

LACP Founder and Executive Director Julia Dean asks Lee Corkett ten questions about his background, career in and beliefs about photography …

Julia Dean:  What kind of photographer are you?

Lee Corkett:  I am primarily a portrait and editorial photographer, though I’ve explored many genres throughout my career. I enjoy working with and shaping light, in studio and location situations. Though my subject matter can vary, themes in my work are often focused around people, culture, alternative communities, and performing artists. My education is in anthropology, and this informs much of my perspective on photography.

JD:  How long have you been shooting?

LC:  I’ve been “shooting” more or less my entire life, beginning with my parents’ Polaroids to make images of my family, then on to landscape with point-and-shoots. I’ve been working professionally for around 8 years.

JD:  Where did you get your training?

LC:  In the beginning, my training came from hours of reading at the library – month after month – in the small prairie city where I grew up. The first book that truly inspired me to bring a thoughtful approach to photography was Galen Rowell’s “The Inner Game of Outdoor Photography”. I later got an AA at Moorpark College’s photography program, then a BA at UCLA Anthropology, with an emphasis on visual culture. I completed on-site research on photographic culture on the Indonesian island of Java during my time there. Since, I’ve studied and studied with, many photographers with varied approaches to their work.

JD:  When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?

LC:  My devotion to photography has come in waves as I’ve progressed, learned about myself, and the craft. The stage was set with the first reading of that book by Rowell, and I’ve really only put the camera “down” during my work at UCLA, where I had dedicated myself to learning about photography as cultural production. As I get older, and my understanding of images broadens, my dedication has only grown and solidified.

JD:  Did you ever come close to giving up?

LC:  Absolutely. Photography is hard, mentally, physically, and at times financially. I have “given up”, in a sense, or I thought I had, but those lapses have always proved temporary. I’ve learned that those frustrating times are simply part of the process.

JD:  Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?

LC:  Sure. Everything is a compromise. When you choose to turn left, you also choose to not turn right, and working in the visual arts is not an easy path to choose. That said, compromise doesn’t always translate to a “loss”, and when I’ve found that when I walk the path before me, benefits begin to arise that I really had no concept of at the beginning of the journey.

JD:  What have you gained by being a photographer?

LC:  I’ve gained social and personal awareness, a sense of identity, and the knowledge that dedication to something pays off in droves. Not to mention a myriad of great friends I never would have known otherwise, and a pursuit of craft that will never be complete.

JD:  What classes do you teach at LACP?

LC:  I teach “The Art of Photographic Capture for Teens”, and alternate with other teachers on “The Special Project”, and “Beginning Photography”.

JD:  What do you love most about teaching?

LC:  I love what teaching has to teach *me*. Teaching forces you to vocalize, and solidify your perspective in a communicable fashion, which is not easy for many visual artists, including me. Seeing students “get it”, and seeing that realization start them on a long, long journey is a great. I love teaching critical thinking skills, which to me, is a large aspect of photography.

JD:  What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?

LC:  Explore all of your interests, and continue your photography. The rest of your life will inform your photographic work, and your photographic work will in turn enrich your life. Until something “clicks”, the relationships between your interests and your photography may not make much sense, but it likely will if you give it the time it needs to come together. Shoot for yourself, and for your own reasons. Trust the work you make.