|DANIEL LEE / American Photo Magazine
When Daniel Lee talks about making his fantastical man-beast portraits, he sounds more like a plastic surgeon than a photographer. "I have to change the eyeball from a human eyeball to an animal eyeball; I have to remove the eyebrows to make the nose broader," he says matter-of-factly about the computer alterations he makes. What he ends up with are eerie portraits he calls "Manimals", such as his recent "1949-Year of the Ox" and "1962-Year of the Tiger".
Chinese lore has it that people have the personality and behavioral traits of-and even a physical resemblance to-the animal that defines their sign in the Chinese zodiac. Lee, who was born in China in 1945 and now lives in New York, finds people who were born in each of the 12 signs (although he does make a few substitutions). Then he takes a 2 1/4 Haselblad portrait of each person and scans it into his Macintosh Quadra 950. Next, he alters their human features by introducing characteristics of specific animal features, based on pictures he keeps handy for reference. The software he uses to make the changes is the well-known Adobe Photoshop, which he calls "one of the greatest things to happen in photography since the invention of the camera".
Far from looking like the psychedelic-inspired futurism of much computer art, Lee’s portraits are intuitive renditions in which he uses his imagination to make uncanny and strangely believable transformations.
~Carol Squiers / Sr. Editor, American Photo Magazine