John Lee: Varsity Aesthete
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Somewhere between his cleats, mitt, jerseys and schoolwork, Whitman College first-year John Lee finds space on the bus to take his cameras with him on the road to indulge his other passion. Lee is a finesse pitcher that has been coming out of Whitman’s bullpen this spring to relieve the starters, but off the field he finds his own relief through the artistic expression of his photography.
Baseball came first for Lee, who began playing in first grade. His love for photography wouldn’t come until much later, when his first camera sparked his interest. Once a camera was put in his hand, photography grew to become a large part of his adolescent life.
“I’ve had a camera since I was in seventh grade, but the first time I sold one of my photos was in the fall of 2010,” said Lee.
Lee acknowledges that the two passions are markedly different, but both play major roles in his life.
“There is definitely an overlap at times, but for the most part they both remain separate, very distinct parts of my life,” said Lee.
Lee’s two interests become one on baseball road trips when he combines his eye for the aesthetics with his love for sports.
“Sometimes when the baseball team is traveling, I take pictures after our games during my free time,” said Lee.
While Lee’s focus on the baseball field is strictly limited to the game, in photography he is able to open his scope to get perspective on other aspects of life.
“I like taking pictures of anything and anyone where the emotions that I experienced when taking the picture can only be re-experienced when you look at the photograph. I definitely find the pictures I take of people in urban areas to be the most rewarding, despite the fact that they aren’t necessarily the most beautiful, because of their ability to expose the audience to people they wouldn’t necessarily have ever noticed had I not taken the picture,” said Lee.
On road trips and between classes, Lee uses his time out of baseball to try to capture the human experience through his photos. For the purpose of traveling lightly, Lee avoids larger cameras, but the smaller cameras also cater to his style of photography.
“I also use a smaller camera for a more practical reason. When I’m out on the street taking pictures of candid people it is much less obvious that I’m a photographer if I can conceal my camera in my pocket before taking the picture. If I used a larger camera I’d be instantly seen as a photographer and it would be much harder to take pictures of people without them noticing. I’d rather come across as a tourist than a serious journalist or professional photographer,” said Lee.
While Lee does not like to flaunt his cameras or draw too much attention to himself with a camera in his hand, he takes a certain pride in his work. Likewise, Lee is not a flashy baseball player, but uses his unassuming presence to his advantage. In both baseball and photography, Lee keeps a low profile but does not reject the idea of either blossoming into something larger, like a career.
“It’s hard to say what the future will hold, but if I have an opportunity for either I could definitely see myself taking it,” said Lee.
For now, Lee will continue to play baseball as long as the opportunity to continue his childhood passion exists and keep taking photos as long as there are experiences to be captured.
“I generally have a camera on my person at all times. You never know when you’ll find a great picture,” said Lee.