Originally of Chinese descent, Benjamin Lee lived most of his young life in Toronto, Canada. There he studied in Photographic Arts at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. After graduating at the top of his class of 1972 he traveled for 10 months through Europe.
After his travels, he received a grant from the Canadian Arts Council to photograph the beachside town of Brighton in England. After falling for the beauty of the country, he established the Benjamin Lee Studio in London in 1977 where he continued his work. With his new base of operations, he began receiving advertising commissions from such brands as Carlsberg Beer, National Panasonic, Olympus and Bayer.
He also received a commission by W.H.O. to photograph English abstract sculptor Henry Moore, classical harmonica player Laurence Cecil Adler and nuclear physicist Edward Teller. As his work continued well into the 80’s, Lee had expanded his stretch in the mediums of advertising and portrait photography. One such notable portrait of famed hat designer, Stephen Jones landed him the Ilford Advertising Award.
The portrait would also be known as the first triptych shot to be done with 6 x 17 Linhof Technorama. This style of shooting would soon become the favourite of Fugi Film Co. President Minoru Ohnishi which would result in his long-term sponsorship from the company.
Throughout the 1990’s Lee worked in Asia.
-1991-Hong Kong to do a story for A.N.A. Airlines to do a story on Hong Kong millionaires.
December of 1991 to Sweden to photograph the millionaires of Sweden.
-1992- Visits Beijing to do story on Chinese musicians. Photographs Madame Song, owner of Maxim Beijing.
-1993- Photographs various architects (Tadao Ando, Kazuo Shinohara, Fumihiko Maki, Arata Isozaki for Spanish Vogue. Photographs Issey Miyake, Eiko Ishioka, Rei Kawakubo for British Vogue.
-1995- Photograpgh Princess Diana’s Make-Up artist Maggie Hunt and interviews Lord Snowdon for Seven Seas Magazine. Receives a commission from Vogue to photograph top English sculptor Sir Anthony Caro with Tadao Ando who designs the exhibition held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo.
In 2012, Lee was commissioned by Discover Japan to do a complete issue on the a avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama. Taking up the project, he documented her working on her upcoming exhibitions at her Tokyo studio and around the world, shooting her at a multitude of high end galleries such as the Museo National de Arte in Reina Sofia, the Pomipidou Centre in Paris, the Tate Modern in London, and the Whitney Museum in New York City. In addition to these exhibitions, they would attend openings to Louis Vuitton shops around the world, documenting the collaboration with Kusama and Marc Jacobs for a one year residency.
From these images and experiences birthed the exhibition ‘The Universe of an Imagination’ hosted at the Eye of Gyre Gallery. This show would display a collection of images taken over 3 years of traveling with Kusama, depicting her life and accurately capturing the essence of her artistic soul and character. “What superb images these are! I am so pleased. Benjamin Lee is a artist who has captured the very essence of my life and my art” Yayoi Kusama, 2014 As his career continued to grow his collaborators and connections with the fashion and advertising world.
Working with such publications as Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and National Geographic and capturing the essence of some of the world’s greats models, actors and visionaries, Benjamin Lee has proven himself a powerhouse in the medium with no sign of stopping.
“What you can imagine, you can create.” – Benjamin Lee June 2014
Benjamin Lee List of Awards
- 1969-72 1st Prize at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute Photography Competition
- 1974 Receives 1st British Design and Art Direction Award
- 1980 Receives 2nd British Design and Art Direction Award
- 1985 Illford Advertising Award for triptych portrait of hat designer Stephen Jones
- 1989 Silver Prize from Roden Stock/Pentax Competition for triptych portrait of of designer, Philippe Starck
- 1994 Receives Grand Prize from Nikkei Advertising Award for Toyota Campain ⁃ 1995 Receives Japan Photo Biennale Award ⁃ 1996 Receives 2nd Nikkei Advertising Award
- 2019 Knighted by Prince Emanuele Filiberto Di Savoia