News & Politics

Washingtonian Favorites: Hatnim Lee

Every Thursday, we bring you interviews with noteworthy Washingtonians. This week, we catch up with photographer Hatnim Lee.

Photograph by Lauren Duque.

Browsing through Hatnim Lee’s blog, you’re as likely to find photographs of a famous filmmaker or athlete—there’s the portrait of David Lynch and the image of an airborne Roger Federer slamming a return at the US Open—as you are candid snapshots of a wedding, hip-looking Brooklynites, and Lee’s friends and relatives. Both portfolio and journal, the blog documents Lee’s journey as a photographer, one that began in earnest for the McLean native about a year-and-a-half ago when she decided to pack her bags, move to New York City, and take up freelance photography full-time.

Lee graduated from the Corcoran College of Art and Design three years ago, interned for the acclaimed photographer David LaChapelle (read on for an interesting anecdote involving Paris Hilton), and has worked with a number of publications and the National Geographic Channel.

“I loved working with the National Geographic Channel,” she says. “There is so much to learn on set when doing documentary stills. It’s a very fruitful experience.”

Lee has also shot a fashion spread for local alternative Web site, BrightestYoungThings—whose editor, Svetlana Legetic, has been a previous interviewee— and just this past March, her work was shown at the Transformer Gallery. She recently released a book, Hatnim Lee Photographs: September 2006-December 2007.

These days, between signing a contract with Getty Images, flying to London and Berlin to meet clients, and heading to New Orleans with human-rights activists to document the conditions of the city post-Katrina, Lee’s got quite a busy schedule. She does, however, try to visit her hometown at least twice a month. We caught up with Lee and asked about her first camera, the photographers whose work she most admires, and where she stands on the digital-versus-film debate.

Name: Hatnim Lee

Age: 26

Occupation: Photographer.

Hometown: Mclean.

Must-have item at all times: Camera.

Signature drink: Anything that I wasn’t last hungover from.

Finish the sentence: When not working, you can find me . . .
 . . searching for a Korean husband, reading the Spanish-English dictionary, and playing with dogs and babies.

Washingtonians you admire?
My family, Andy Grundberg, Jose Varela, Victoria Reis, and Page Carr. Barack to the future!

Favorite neighborhood in Washington?
I know it’s cheesy, but I love the Mall. It’s so beautiful, and the museums are free—that’s the bomb.

Washington insider tips?
You have to come into Annandale for good Korean food. Don’t pick up furniture on the street. Bedbugs, aah!

Finish the sentence: Thinking about the metro makes me . . . .
. . . think the architecture is gorgeous, but the orange leather seats are nasty—and why is the Metro so darn expensive?

Favorite photographers?

Dead: Henri-Cartier Bresson. Alive: Kate Orne.

What would you change about DC?
Last call—it’s so early. The lights always come on just when you’re buzzing real good.

As you answer these questions, what Web sites are open in your browser?
Blogger, Gmail, Yahoomail, Myspace, Facebook, YouTube, Dictionary, CNN, NYTimes.

What was your first camera, and do you remember the first picture you took?
Nikon fm10. My first photo was outside of the NOVA campus. My teacher, Mark Wolfe, let us run around the school and practice. I was tempted to lie here because my story is pretty boring, but oh well.

What’s the craziest anecdote you can share about the time you spent as David La Chapelle’s intern?
One time Paris Hilton stopped by the studio in her Bentley at two in the morning, smoking a joint. She posed for some photos, and drank some Jack Daniel’s. When the producer offered her ice, she replied, “No, I’m hardcore.”

Do you still shoot any film, or do you prefer digital?
I shoot film only if a client prefers it, but I’m pro-digital all the way. It’s cheaper, faster, and better for the environment.

Any other Washington photographers or photoblogs you like?,,, Stephen Crowley.

When in town, is there a specific spot you like to go to for inspiration and/or to take pictures?
My parent’s liquor store on Sherman and Harvard streets, Northwest. I shoot pictures there a lot.

Other Washingtonian Favorites:

David Malitz
Curtis Sittenfeld
Katherine Kennedy
Barton Seaver
Lindsay Czarniak

Want more Washingtonian Favorites? Check out last week's interview with local musician Olivia Mancini. Also, don't forget to check back in next Thursday for our interview with author Eric Nuzum. Earlier this month, Nuzum released the book, The Dead Travel Fast: Stalking Vampires from Nosferatu to Count Chocula, about, well, vampires. He's also written about the Omni Shoreham Hotel ghost for the magazine. Ghosts and vampires—must be Halloween!

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