Jes Lee

A decade

Starting a new decade is always exciting. 

Looking back to see where you've been over the past 10 years is pretty amazing.

This decade started with me in my second year as a post-secondary student at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, spending what would be my senior year of high school coming pretty close to finishing my two-year college degree. 

I was working the only other pay-check job I have had (besides waitressing at my parent's restaurant) as a TA in the darkroom at ARCC, cementing my future as a photographer, and most of all, an artist.

I started doing kid and family portraits (my first portrait job was of one of my little cousins!) which would eventually become a pretty awesome job for me, one that I love doing, and one that has taught me so many things about families, adoption, and that work can be fun!

The following 10 years saw many life-changing events,

I had already met John, but we went on our second date on New Years Day night in 2000…to the Rocky Horror Picture Show,

started in the Bachelor's of Fine Arts program at the University of Minnesota,

said goodbye to my granny,

got engaged,

had an impromptu small wedding ceremony when John's Army Reserve unit was put on alert to go to Iraq,

watched John be a soldier and leave,

completed my final art-student project and graduated with my 4 year degree,

bought our cozy two-bedroom condo, 

started volunteering at Banfill,

celebrated John coming home,

had the wedding ceremony we wanted,

took a honeymoon to Iceland,

got accepted as the Artist-in-Residence in Banfill and completed the Waiting Ribbons series,

participated in other art shows and festivals including showings at Dunn Brothers Coffee, Hopkins Center for the Arts, and a show with the Women's Art Registry of Minnesota,

said good bye to my grandpa,

expanded to not only working in photography, but also wood block carving, letter press printing, book arts, paper making, and pottery (thanks to my dad!),

volunteering at Minnesota Center for Book Arts,

many road trips to Duluth and a long road trip to Montana with John leading to many many photos, 

a wonderful trip to Japan

and now working on the artwork for a solo show at Bloomington Art Center.

Looking back, I see now how things have lead me to where I am now, and I feel like I am on the right path. I am blessed with a wonderful family, and so many great friends. I couldn't ask for anything more. 

There is only one resolution I am making as I head on to a new year and a new decade: to photograph this decade and enjoy it even more than the last.


Where to next?

I can't say the past week was the most productive I have had since starting work on pulling this project together. That is not necessarily a bad thing though. 

The past week of course contained Christmas and the crazy amount of work and festivities that go along with it. I gave up blogging for the week because something had to give. 

Having a week off was nice. I still played a little bit, taking photos when I was drawn to it, but I wasn't constantly working. The break was very welcome. 

After an unexpected heart-to-heart talk with my husband, I have come to the decision that I am no longer going to be blogging about this project 5 times a week. It helped me get going, it helped keep me on track, and hopefully helped some people know exactly what I am thinking about and doing as I work on this show. Now, I have reached the point where I need to be a bit more elusive. I need to keep working on it, but not every day. The things I have to work out will take a lot longer time to work out. I will still post about what I am doing and thinking at least once a week, quite often more, but it won't be every day. I'm not sad about this at all! I'm pretty proud of myself for keeping it up to day 90! It did really help me! Now, I think not worrying so much about blogging, and just working will help me more. 

I hope that all makes sense.

This past week brought a ton of snow here! Personally, I love it! I love seeing the snow stuck to tree branches, I love how still everything looks, how smooth it looks at night, and how it reflects the lights around it. 

When the snow started, I took a couple photos from my deck. 

I follow moominsean on Twitter. Last week he posted on his blog about peeling peel-apart polaroids backwards. It makes the edges look much more raw, and quite a bit more interesting. I tried it with these two polaroids. I didn't crop the image down, so you can actually see the edges. It is a technique I think I'm going to keep trying. It also is making me think about what exactly I can do with the space that is left on the polaroid between the image and the edge. Writing of some type perhaps?? Stamping? Distressing? We'll see where that goes.

Thank you for all of the kind comments many of you have left for me during my 90 days of blogging 5 days a week! I hope you'll keep it up even when I'm not posting as often!

Until next time,


day 90

I give.

Due to the holidays I am putting in many extra hours at work, and spending many extra hours trying to help family. It's getting to be a wee bit too much for me. So, I'm taking a break from blogging for the next few days, possibly the rest of this week. I'll still hopefully be working on my art work, but I'm unsure how much time I'll have for that. 

I promise a nice, long, picture filled post on Monday.

Until then,

Happy Holidays, Happy Winter Solstice, and Happy end of December.


Day 89

Yesterday, for a little while, the sun was out, the air felt the warmest it has in weeks, and we had some free time between activities. 

I wanted to be outside for a bit. So I packed up my favorite cameras, and we headed out. J driving, me looking for places to stop and photograph. Sometimes I walked for awhile, stopping every few feet, and he followed in the car.

Today I developed the film from that walk and a few other photo days. It was nice being back in my darkroom, chemicals and all.

Here are just a few photos from that walk. There are many more to come.

Photo walks help my attitude. Alot.

Until tomorrow,


day 88

I have nothing to blog about today.

It is not because I purposely didn't do any work towards my project today. It is not because I didn't want to. It is because today, after working, helping a friend, packing up unsold items from one last holiday sale, and dealing with a car spending the day at the mechanics, my entire day was gone. 

So, for the first time since I started blogging about my project 5 days a week, here is the first day I truly have nothing to give you.

It really upsets me, but there isn't much I can do. 

The most artistic thing I did today was read PolaPremium's latest newsletter, and wish for a brief bit that Minnesota was much closer to New York and I could have been at the Impossible Project Party at the International Center for Photography tonight. 

Until Monday,


day 87

Today was an awesome photo day.

I started photographing the exhibit at MCBA: New Work by the MCBA/Jerome Book Arts Mentorship Artists. It is always so inspiring and fun for me to be there, photograph the great work in their galleries, and be with all of the fun people that work and help out there. While I was there I bought a pound of Kozo fiber, to get myself started on the papermaking portion I have added to my project. Jeff, one of the great guys that works at MCBA kindly suggested that I use their papermaking wet studios there sometime to make it a little easier on myself. I suggest to many artist friends to use the facilities at the local art centers. It helps the art centers survive, and gives you great space to work. So, why don't I use those facilities? Why do I always try to do everything in my little tiny studio? Why don't I get out more and work with other artists? I'm really not that anti-social. Really, my only reason is that I honestly usually do my laundry and other little things like that while I am over at my studio. To go work somewhere else, I would have to give that up. I do think I will give that up for a day though to work on this. It will be easier, and easier to clean up after.

It was actually not frigid outside today, so after photographing the galleries, I walked along by the Mill City Ruins and the Stone Arch Bridge with my Mamiya for just a bit. It was so nice to just wander around with a camera again. I really miss that when the temps get so cold and you can't go outside. I tweeted earlier that it is amazing how theraputic it can be to have one camera and one roll of film and have time to put them to use. It did wonders for my mood today.

Tonight John and I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for their free Third Thursday night. The music was good, the 'Art Carts' were fun, and the Louvre exhibit was pretty cool. 

It has been a while since I have had a day that seemed like that much fun while still being productive. 

I hope this continues!

Until tomorrow,


day 86


From how late this blog is being posted, a few things are obvious:

1. The whole idea of going to bed early didn't last for long.

2. I should probably not drink an espresso drink after 5pm.

3. I have not yet succeeded in getting myself adjusted to a schedule of being creative/working on artwork during the day instead of at night.

I'm still working on setting up the papermaking parts, and will hopefully have more to report on that next week.

In the meantime, I have been making notes; visual notes as well as written notes. 

I gave myself a break today, and spent some time just listening to music and writing. While I did fail a bit at ignoring some of the social media I am addicted to, the time was successful! I still have the feeling that what I wrote was crap – as most first drafts honestly are – I did actually manage to focus on writing and getting some ideas out. Then, in going back over some of those ideas tonight, I took a few pictures – blue polaroids this time. 

Keep in mind that these are 'notes' to me. The writing isn't finished, the photos aren't the best, but to me all of this makes sense as a bit of a break through, and hopefully an end to the 'creative block' I've had the last couple of days where everything just felt stuck in my head. 


There were rumors of her existance

the girl who left Real World for Digital.

Supposedly she said it was for the best before plugging in forever.

Some say she gave up her freedom that day.

i think she just found a different kind of freedom.

She wanders through here much like the rumors do.


The fortress of firewalls didn't stop him.

They are just like the plastic kid-gates back in Real World. 

Given enough time, and enough of a running start, any kid and dog can manage to get through them.



She felt observed and uneasy.

She didn't at all want to be associated with that generation – those who paricipated in the worship of sub-zero refridgerators and iconic images of past events.

'Flash bulb moments' they called them.

It was all consumed media now.

Out-modded technology that had no where to go.

Replaced by online eye candy. 

It was an uncertain age. 

Two groups colliding.

Trying to find common ground.

The instant translation process compelled all of us to dream, but sometimes that wasn't enough to overcome the massive media gap of the digital visual boom.

Realtime was giving way to a future with instant recall.


Many things are important for me to remember:

1. Hasselblads are awesome at giving you sharp, high quality images. That doesn't mean that all images taken with  one have to be sharp.

2. Everything is a start. Everything is something.

3. Layers can be made in the camera, and are just as cool as ones put together on the computer.


Tomorrow I plan on hanging out at some of the museums. We'll see what strikes me then.

Until tomorrow,


Day 85

Thinking a lot today. Most of my thoughts are very scattered though.

I'm remembering a lot about Japan. In my spare time (I don't think I really have any of that!) I have been organizing a book of photos from our trip.

We are planning another trip – this one to Hawaii at the end of January – and I think that is adding to my scattered feelings. 

Mountain rest stop in Japan.

The city skyline view you could see as you were walking up to Osaka Castle.

Osaka Castle


I feel right now like I am at a point where I'm not sure I am working on the right things for my project, or focusing in the right areas. It is a hard feeling to have, and it fills my mind with a lot of questions that no one can really answer. 

I have plans to focus on writing more tomorrow, and work on making more test prints on Thursday. 

Hopefully that will help.


Until tomorrow,


day 84

Today I started my Monday like I have so many other weeks. Coffee, a little bit of internet time, and getting ready to tackle that huge to-do list. 

Today, it was a little hard getting to that to-do list. It took me awhile to realize why. It finally dawned on me that the huge to-do list, wasn't so huge today. For the first time in weeks, I didn't have things that needed to be ready for a drop off the next day. For the first time there weren't deadlines looming over me. Well, there is still that deadline for my show, and that is a pretty huge deadline, but it isn't something you tackle in one day. (I have also reached a point that requires more thinking than doing, but that is perhaps something for a different blog post) 

So instead of framing, gluing, labeling, and making inventory lists, I spent the day writing, doing some research, and finishing up an image I promised @jeffreywith2fs for his Great Polaroid Giveaway project. This felt a lot more like playing than working! 

It is so cold here, even the snow ninja is protesting for the return of Spring! Taken with my Canon Rebel XT this afternoon, on my snowy deck.

Yes, it's cheesy!

It was a wonderfully enjoyable day!

Until tomorrow,


Day 83

Here are scans of the two images I printed on the kozo paper I made.

You'll recognize the photos from one of my recent blog posts. Both of the images are from our trip to Japan.

I didn't do anything special to the paper. This is paper that I  made in a Japanese paper making class. It is made with a fiber called Kozo, which comes from a Mullberry bush. There is no sizing in the paper, and nothing coating it to accept the ink differently. This paper was made, dried, and then shoved into my printer. 

I am considering making more of this paper to make more prints on. I can make the paper quite a bit whiter (it involves a longer cleaning process). 

Many things to think about.

Until Monday