“For David Lee, work has long been a family affair. As a unit still photographer, the native New Yorker and younger brother of Spike has captured the making of nearly every Spike Lee joint, from the Oscar-winning director’s NYU shorts to Do the Right Thing to BlacKkKlansman—plus dozens of other American classics, like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Bourne Ultimatum and more. Not to mention his own artistic portfolio.
No film set is ever the same, but David’s mission is to document everything that happens, to tell the story as he sees it. ‘As a still photographer, you are putting your own stamp on the work,’ David says. ‘It’s not at all the case that you’re just lifting a frame from the movie—that may be a popular misconception. Anybody who does it well is adding their own artistic eye, their own unique interpretation, to a larger vision.’
Below, David shares 12 photographs from his work on movie sets (and off) and what went into making each one. His stories show us just one more way in which movies are nothing short of magic. And while the images span decades, genres and formats, there is a common thread here. ‘Some are incredibly vibrant, like the red wall, and some are shot in my favorite format, which is black-and-white square. But I hope the through line is an attempt at storytelling,’ he says. ‘That each image you could almost riff on. What you bring to it or how you respond to it is part of the pleasure of viewing them.’”