Three years in the life of a lady boy. Shauna 2007 – 2009, by Sean Lee.Posted: October 4, 2014
Sean Lee is a photographer living in Singapore. The story began in 2007 when he visited Angkor photo festival. On this occasion he saw, then met, many transvestites. He felt attracted by this community and decided to become one of them. For three years he became Shauna, a beautiful asian lady boy. This book relates the story of Shauna, photographed by Sean Lee during those three years. Before becoming a book, this work was nominated for the Prix Découverte during the Arles Festival 40th anniversary in 2009.
That could be considered as a performance, but I would rather consider it as an experience. The experience of gender identification and cross dressing, as many have done before like Cindy Sherman or Nan Goldin amongst others. It is definitely not a question of sexuality and to avoid any misinterpretation, Sean claims that he is not homosexual ; the work is more a kind of tribute to the feminine beauty.
Entering in the skin of a new character, Shauna had to learn everything of a life of a woman which became both addictive and exciting. We follow her in her night life, preparing herself, dressing, having fun with friends or relaxing, all in a colorful world of joy and happiness. Playing both role of photographer and model, Sean/Shauna has experienced the duality of photography with the different powers of each role, deciding what to capture, but also what to give. Some images strongly refer to glamour photography, some refer to snapshots made between friend to remember good moments and some others, to an imaginary world in which Shauna’s life is interlaced.
The strength of this work is its honesty, Shauna shares her complete intimacy with us. We follow Shauna till the end of the night and we come home with her, exhausted but at the same time, delighted by these moments. We know Shauna as a friend and everyone will want to know Shauna after this book. Everyone will want to party with her, everyone will want to chat with her, everyone will want to seduce her. Well, everyone will fall in love with her.
The design of the book reinforces those impressions: double side spreads alternate with small photos, thus our attention is drawn from colorful ambiances to small details. The matte paper is pleasantly soft and the photographs are beautifully printed, colors are as vivid as the night can be (my favorite is Shauna smoking, sitting on a pool table). I also have to say that it took me some time to discover the cover. At first glimpse, I saw some silver spots which did not meant anything, but it is a photo of Shauna (the first one in the book) with the highlights outlined.
I have to say that I like a lot this book, mainly because it synthesizes what a selfpublished photobook could be at its best : beautifully printed and crafted, simple but efficient sequencing and, over all, a honest and generously narrated, strong story.
Softcover book, 14,5 x 21,5 cm, 84 pages with 41 color photographs, print run of 500.
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All images copyright Sean Lee.