Photojournalist Eric Lee examines Asian-American voters in new project
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Photojournalist Eric Lee examines Asian-American voters in new project

Washington D.C based photojournalist Eric Lee sits for an interview to discuss his upcoming projects.

Photojournalist Eric Lee examines Asian-American voters in new project
Photo by Mac Blessen

The fire grows larger as the protester's yells begin to grow louder. The police, veiled in riot year, drag people away from the flaming car.

None of this is heard by Eric Lee as he gets closer, taking picture after picture of the chaos, getting closer to the action before he is grabbed by a policeman, and pushed back.

Lee, a freelance photojournalist from Washington D.C, recalls this day, January 20, 2017, the Presidential Inauguration, as when he knew he had found his calling in life.

On Inauguration Day, Lee was on his way to cover the event, when he noticed a group of protesters from the Antifa movement marching towards Franklin Square. As they walk down K Street, Lee witnesses the group of protesters set fire to a limousine that is parked on the side of the road.

As flames engulfed the car and police officers took action, Lee said he just kept taking photos. He said that, in the moment, he was not thinking about his personal safety, and did not have any fear.

"I felt drawn to the car," Lee said.

The excitement that came from the situation and his determination to get the right picture, one that could capture the emotion and tell the story of the moment, confirmed Lee's decision that this was the right career path for him.

Originally from Brooklyn, Lee did not always want to be a photographer. However, while attending Gettysburg College, Lee began working on the Gettysburg College magazine and website, working on advertising and the marketing for it, while getting to occasionally take pictures for different event held on campus.

After graduating from Gettysburg College in 2015, Lee began working at a creative advertising agency in New York, but left after only a few months, feeling that it was not a good fit for him, and moved to Washington D.C to work as a communications consultant.

However, Lee still felt that this career path he had chosen had left him missing something, so he left and applied for an internship at NPR.

As a communications intern, he mostly worked on the social media for NPR Extra, posting to their Instagram or Twitter accounts.

One of his first assignments at NPR was to cover Robert Siegal's, a longtime NPR host, retirement party. Along with creating social media posts for the party, Lee took pictures of the event. He was commended on the results.

"The party allowed me to create my own identity at NPR," Lee said.

Shortly after this, the NPR Visual Editor approached Lee and asked if he would take pictures for the 2018 March for Our Lives Rally.

His images resulted in him receiving his first byline in a national publication. His pictures were the banner images for the accompanying article.

Lee describes that day as a turning point in his career.

"I decided that photojournalism is the route I wanted to go," Lee said.

Although Lee had been working as a freelance photojournalist, in addition to his NPR internship, since 2016, this event inspired him to apply to the George Washington University to pursue his Master's degree in New Media Photojournalism in the Corcoran College of Arts and Design. Lee says he wants to continue to improve himself as his career grows.

Margaret Wroblewski, a Washington D.C freelance photojournalist, met Lee while she was also getting her Master's degree in New Media Photojournalism. She is amazed at what he has done so far in his short career as a photojournalist.

"He is one of the most motivated photojournalists I have met," Wroblewski wrote in an email.

After graduating and receiving his Master's degree next Spring, Lee wants to start a new project on Asian-American voters for the 2020 election. Being Asian-American himself, Lee has always felt that, even though it is one of the fastest populations, they are overlooked as voters.

"Hopefully I will be driving around . . . diving deep into certain areas," Lee said.

Lee plans on documenting Asian- American communities in the months leading up to and through the 2020 election.

Although this is a big undertaking, Wroblewski remains optimistic about his ability to do it and produce a meaningful story.

"He has an eye that no one else has," Wroblewski said, "He is one of the hardest workers that I know."

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