Alameda, CA 1976

Lee S. Nelson


Born and Live: Oakland, CA

Study: San Francisco Art Institute 1973-1977 (BFA Photography)

Contact: Lee@LeeSNelson.com


Photographer’s Statement

I believe writing about photography is just like talking about music, it won’t make you dance and you won’t learn how to play an instrument, at least from my writing.

For over forty years, through photography, I have been actively compiling a record of the visual manifestations of popular culture at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries in North America and parts of Europe. From time to time though, I do get distracted by things that are bright, shiny, beautiful, strange, or pink. I think you can probably pick those out. Sometimes I even photograph things that I think have something to do with popular culture but might have nothing to do with it at all.

I’m really not sure why I thought popular culture was a fit subject for photography. It might have something to do with seeing work by the photographers Atget, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld, Bill Owens, Joel Meyerowitz, Henry Wessel, and Diane Arbus. Of course there are many other photographers and visual artists that have influenced me but I think these are my most direct influences. If I had not learned about these photographers’ work I’m not sure what I would photograph. Probably not cats, (too cute), or flowers, (too pretty), maybe whales. I never get tired of seeing pictures of whales.

I learned about these photographers when I studied at the San Francisco Art Institute in the mid 1970s. I studied photography with Ellen Brooks, J. Oliver Mitchell, Margery Mann, Harry Bowers, Pirkle Jones, John Collier, Linda Connor, Henry Wessel, and Reagan Louie. The photographers that I have been influenced by or whose work I admire is too long to list here.

I like to photograph pretty much anywhere I go as long as there is some popular culture or that other stuff I mentioned. (I have even photographed a couple of whales.) Two of my favorite places to find some popular culture are Las Vegas, and Southern California. It’s kind of hard to miss it. I hope to travel more soon, maybe to Asia, South America, North Dakota. I’m a little worried that I might not recognize popular culture in these places but hopefully I can find bright, shiny, strange, or pink things.

Here is a brief list of where I have shown work:

1984 San Francisco Camerawork 10th Anniversary Juried Show   (in Random Thoughts Portfolio, #1 Rodeo, CA with bulldozer and giraffe.)

1985 MoMing Gallery Chicago, IL (2 person show of work from 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco)

The missing years, still compiling the record. Who knows where the time goes?

2011 One World PhotoAlliance juried portfolio review (received fantastic feedback, realized I should show my work more.)

2013 Bay Area Photographer’s Collective “One Shot” Member’s Show, 2 images

2013 ABC Napa, CA 15 selections from “Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Lee and the Hollywood Sign”

2014 PHOTO Gallery Oakland, CA “Sense of Place”, 9 selections from “Thirty-Six Views….”

2014 PHOTO Gallery Oakland, CA “Upon Reflection” curated by Stephen Wirtz, 2 images

2015 One World PhotoAlliance juried portfolio review (showed selections from “Thirty-Six Views…” and “Home Town” portfolios)

2015 San Francisco Camerawork “Heat” Annual Juried Show,  (July 23- August 22, 2015) selections from “1984 Democratic National Convention”

2015 PHOTO Gallery Oakland, CA  “California!” (October 15-November 14, 2015)

2016 Dada Gallery San Francisco, CA  “Americana Pop” (December 26th, 2016 through February 7th, 2017) selections from “The Promised Land”

I do like to read about music but when I want to dance I listen to music, and I turn it up.







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