What story would your flesh tell if it were splayed and flattened, digitally altered to appear as a work of art, caught between the angled sides of a camera frame? For his stunning series of photographs, titled Skin, the photographer June Yong Lee manipulates portraits of nude bodies, arranging their torsos in such a way that defies the limitations of the muscular skeletal system.
Despite the artist’s deliberate omission of common indicators of visual identity—facial features, body shape, and race—the images are an authoritative and legible document of selfhood. Pointing to the human desire to express what cannot be conveyed with language, Lee’s camera reveals tattoos, tired milky breasts, freckles, and scars.
For the artist, skin operates as a visual diary of experience. Without the guidelines of a more recognizable human form, memories— that range from the mundane to the sexually charged— are kept only through marks etched on flesh. He writes, “our skin never forgets [our past].”
The ideological tensions between body and mind are subverted as the skin organ is compressed; as if they were flowers held between the heavy pages of an encyclopedia, mounds of sin become something to be studied and read. The careful framing of each piece enhances this idea; positioned in relation to a central axis of the navel, the bisected torsos appear bound down the middle like some sort of corporeally historical book.
The phenomenal work is so poignant because in some ways, it confirms the unreliability of a subjective human memory: tattoos are faded or unreadable, and scars are healed. The images seem to blend the antique tonal richness of early Victorian photography with a morbid sense of modern forensics; as if recovered from an ancient autopsy, the slabs of flesh are somehow mournful yet objective and scientific. Our memories erode, and we die; yet through some miraculous marriage of science and art, fragments of our forgotten moments might be archived. (via Feature Shoot)