June Yong Lee: Torso Series & Sage Sohier: About Face
It’s rare that two shows in a gallery compliment each other so exquisitely. Both Sohier’s and Lee’s photographs, though incredibly different in style, meditate on the profound stories told on the flesh and features of the human body.
In the front room, Lee’s Torso Series use digital photography mastery to capture and lay flat the entire torsos of his subjects, like black and white human hides pinned to the wall, or, more fittingly, narrative tapestries of a life told through skin. The large images map the topography of the bodies—male and female, black and white, muscular and scrawny—until the torso becomes a landscape of flesh and contour and wrinkles that tell whole biographies in their form. In the more jarring bodies, tattoos, scars, stretch marks, and even violent scratch marks speak of individual events laid like fossils in the flesh. Others are more abstract and serene: two breasts rising from a milky smooth background, or nipples disappearing into a field of moles. Anonymous without faces, the bodies nonetheless are unique and full of character.
In contrast, Sohier’s show includes color portraits of individuals suffering from partial facial paralysis caused by a number of afflictions—stroke, Bell's palsy, nerve damage—photographed over three years at a nerve clinic. Their paralysis ranges from almost unnoticeable, such as a girl whose only sign of loss of movement caused by Lyme’s disease is a tear in one eye, to individuals whose faces appear to be two sides of a coin, displaying seemingly disparate emotions. Yet, shot with eyes staring directly into the camera and often with family members to the side filling the background with love, each subject displays a poise and dignity that challenges the viewer to suspend all preconceptions about appearance and its effect on the human condition. Sohier told me that she chose not to include the condition with any of the titles in order to make the audience experience the subject and not the syndrome, and it is a powerful choice.